Food Stamps: the student’s wonka bar

Should students take advantage of the golden grocery ticket?

Let’s face it. When you hear the words ‘Food Stamps’, your mind immediately goes to poverty stricken families who can barely afford to pay for a can of rice and beans. The reality of that situation, however, could not be further from the truth. It seems that our misconceptions about the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (or SNAP) paired with the government’s recent push to get more Americans on the program is leading to glaring issues in the entire system.

Not only are those in true need confused at the requirements to join the program, but those willing and able can easily abuse the system and earn food stamps when they may not actually need them. This is creating a negative connotation of the term ‘food stamps’ and could be harming those in need more than it helps.

Surprisingly, this program could affect students at Georgia State as much as anyone else. This is because, believe it or not, you most likely are eligible for food stamps! This may seem strange, but as a college student you would basically either need to work a full time job or still be living with you parents in order to NOT qualify for the SNAP program.

Odd still, I know most of you do not automatically connect the stereotype of the ‘broke college student’ with the literal ‘poverty-stricken young adult’. Besides, many college students get financial aid, loans, and the like in order to pay for college and living expenses. Even so, the SNAP program has many gray areas and essential loopholes in its application process that make it easy to make it seem like you have a low income. Not reporting the full extent of your income through loans, scholarships, and even part time jobs is almost too easy when calculating income for SNAP eligibility.

Out of curiosity, I simply went to the SNAP website and within 10 minutes I was a few clicks and four pay stubs away from registering myself for food stamps! Obviously I did not finish the application due to the fact that one, I was withholding some income information and two, what is left of my moral conscious wouldn’t let me go any further.

The fact is, though, that almost anyone our age attending college and working a part time job is essentially eligible for food stamps. I know, it still sounds hard to believe and there are many stipulations. For one, like I mentioned, the moral implications are severe. Not only would I feel bad for using government aid that could help other families in need, but I couldn’t go into a supermarket and pay with my food stamps without just feeling ashamed. Especially when I would most likely just be buying ice cream and Cheese-Itz with government money.

This brings up an interesting problem, though. I bet more than a few students would not think twice about abusing the SNAP program for a free bag of groceries here and there if push came to shove. This seems to be a trend in the food stamp scene. Some out there see this as an easy program to take advantage of.

Furthermore, the recent marketing campaign by the government that is trying to get more individuals on the SNAP program is not helping the case for corruption in the system. Many changes are needed to change the current food stamp system, and I do not think boosting the number of recipients is a cure. Instead, I feel if anything that benefits should be cut from those that currently collect food stamps. In addition, eligibility requirements surely need to be reconfigured in order to reduce loopholes.

Simple changes such as factoring in home equity or retirement benefits could greatly reduce the number of recipients on welfare who currently receive a hefty chunk of retirement or live in nice homes. Yes, someone could be living in a million dollar home retired with a huge retirement plan and still be considered a poor, unemployed elder in the eyes of the SNAP program.

There are countless other huge loopholes in the system but the fact of the matter is: it should not be as easy as it was for me to almost qualify for food stamps! If we don’t change the system, we will not have the resources we need to help those individuals who need our assistance the most, and that is the greatest injustice of all.

About Mitchell Oliver 44 Articles
Mitch is a senior finance major and student financial advisor. “My goal is to have more college students financially literate.” Leave your questions for him online at georgiastatesignal.com

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