ASEWU President heads to Olympia to address student hunger

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ASEWU President heads to Olympia to address student hunger

Canned food in the food pantry in Isle Hall. The food pantries on campus offer free food free food to any students in need as a way to combat food insecurity.

Canned food in the food pantry in Isle Hall. The food pantries on campus offer free food free food to any students in need as a way to combat food insecurity.

Jeremy Burnham

Canned food in the food pantry in Isle Hall. The food pantries on campus offer free food free food to any students in need as a way to combat food insecurity.

Jeremy Burnham

Jeremy Burnham

Canned food in the food pantry in Isle Hall. The food pantries on campus offer free food free food to any students in need as a way to combat food insecurity.

By Jeremy Burnham, Managing Editor

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When walking across campus between classes, students are likely to unknowingly pass many fellow students who don’t always know if their food will last until the next time they receive money.

More than one in three EWU students face, or have faced, food insecurity while attending school at the university, according to a 2016 survey conducted by the EWU Department of Health and Wellness. The study says 36 percent of EWU students face food insecurity, while that number is below 20 percent for U.S. households.

ASEWU President Dante Tyler plans to travel to Olympia twice this week with EWU President Mary Cullinan. He says he’s going to use the opportunity to discuss student hunger with lawmakers.

Sharing your story is the biggest thing that will resonate with legislators.”

— Dante Tyler, ASEWU President

Student hunger is a nationwide problem on college campuses. A recent government report by the Government Accountability Office examined 31 studies and projected that around a third of students at two- and four-year colleges nationwide face food insecurity.

According to the GAO, none of the studies included looked at national results. Therefore, national numbers are not exact. What is known, however, is that a large number of college students are hungry. And while college students are more likely to face food insecurity than the average American, restrictions on them receiving SNAP (food stamp) benefits are greater.

According to the SNAP website, “Most able-bodied students ages 18 through 49 who are enrolled in college or other institutions of higher education at least half time are not eligible for SNAP benefits.”

However, there are some exceptions for students who meet all general requirements plus some special conditions.

One such exception is for students who work 20 or more hours per week. However, in Washington, students working on-campus jobs are limited to 19 hours a week.

Tyler is looking to change this.

“I would like to see waivers for that 20-hour requirement,” Tyler said. “If a student wants to use student employment because it’s the easiest way to hold a job while going to school, it’s impossible to work enough hours to get the benefits. I would like to see a waiver for that extra hour.”

There are other exceptions that allow some students to receive aid. The full list of exceptions can be found online at www.fns.usda.gov/snap/facts-about-snap. Tyler says it’s important to get the word out to students who may qualify because statistics show that there are many students who qualify, but are not signed up for the benefits.

“You can just go onto the SNAP benefits website,” Tyler said. “It’s as easy as typing ‘food stamps’ into Google. You can email them. They are fast to respond.”

Many students face food insecurity over breaks. One such student, who asked not to be named for this story, told The Easterner that he ran out of food during the month-long winter break his first year on campus.

“I rationed my financial aid money to last the quarter,” said the senior student. “But the extra month between classes was rough. The last week, I had to drop down to one meal a day for the food to last.”

The student said he was unsure if he qualified for SNAP benefits, and would hesitate to sign up even if he qualified.

“There are people who need (SNAP benefits) more than I do,” the student said. “While school is in, I’m fine.”

Tyler says he will be working on this issue for the remainder of his term as ASEWU president, and he is looking for help.  ASEWU has set up a form on EagleSync where students can share their food insecurity related struggles. ASEWU will share these stories with lawmakers as they continue to fight for change.

“Sharing your story is the biggest thing that will resonate with legislators,” Tyler said.

The form can be found by logging on to orgsync.com/81396/forms/349538 and signing in with a student login.

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