Students use food stamps to fight food insecurity on campus | New

Food insecurity has been the topic on Eckerd’s student languages.

Last semester, associate professor of anthropology Jessie Fly taught the Anthropological Research Methods course, where student researchers researched information about food insecurity on the Eckerd campus by conducting interviews and surveys. Florida PIRG (Public Interest Research Group) helped the class organize free registration methods and surveys to get the information.

Together, they found that many students struggled with food due to time constraints, nutritional content, and dietary restrictions. COVID-19 issues have also contributed to food insecurity, as people said they were not comfortable eating in person in the cafeteria.

Fly thinks food insecurity is often a silent issue, as it is commonly assumed that students are wealthy enough to pay tuition and therefore have access to adequate food.

“I think many students recognize that they are in a privileged position compared to people who don’t have access to an education,” Fly said. “So in this privileged position, can I admit or say to someone ‘look, I don’t have access to the food that I need to be healthy or food secure.’ Will anyone take me seriously?

Fly also notes that food insecurity is a societal issue and that the community around the Eckerd campus struggles with food insecurity.

“It’s important to think about the wider community and what it looks like to proclaim the issue to the outside,” Fly said. “We must continue to encourage people to include the outside world. To be inclusive is to be productive.

In Florida, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits are equivalent to a food stamp, but through Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT).

Christyna Reagan, President of ECOS and a triple major in Political Science, Women’s and Gender Studies, and American Studies, applied for SNAP benefits in late July 2022. She first considered applying during her research trip to been to several southern states, where she met many low-income students — including one in Alabama sharing her food stamp experience. .

At first, Reagan did not consider applying at all, as she assumed that Meal Plan students could not qualify. Now Reagan lives in the Omega community, where she’s not on the meal plan at all.

“They were always vague in wording,” Reagan said. “But I looked at the fine print of qualified students and decided to apply to see where it got me.”

It took the Florida Department of Children and Families, through the Office of Economic Self-Sufficiency (ESS) online portal, 31 days to reach out with a phone interview after Reagan submitted an application. They called early one morning, which came across as spam, so Reagan must have called the same number 15 times before trying to call customer service. After being on hold for two hours, her phone died and she had to wait until next Monday when she finally made it through and repeated the information she had entered in her original application, such as medication and the Federal Labor Study. She was told she was qualified and had to wait for EBT to arrive.

“I check every start and end of every day,” Reagan said. “The process was horrible and very slow. It took me over a month. »

Last semester, Reagan had food safety issues because cafeteria hours weren’t long enough with his off-campus night shift schedule. This meant there was nowhere to find food on campus at midnight. Now at Omega, she has to pay for her own groceries, which has led her to put them on a credit card and withdraw money from her student loans in order to feed herself.

“To me, food insecurity is like not knowing where the food is going to come from,” Reagan said. “Knowing how to bring tupperware to what events and waiting until late and hoping there’s food to take with you.”

In an effort to end food insecurity on campus, Reagan, as president of ECOS, will work with Religious Life’s Zero Hunger Campaign and the FLPIRG to open a food bank on campus. Although details are still being discussed, they hope to open it soon.

For now, applications for SNAP benefits are available through the Florida Department of Children and Families online application portal.

Reagan said she would be happy to help any student who wants to apply.

About Chris C. Hairston

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