Back when I was a college student (a whopping nine months ago), my roommate's rice cooker was my ultimate survival tool. With a mere 1/2 cup of dry rice, I was able to stretch any bit of food -- be it chicken, veggies or restaurant leftovers -- into a quick, filling, cheap meal; this technique was one of the more valuable lessons I learned throughout college. And while I felt pretty savvy for taking advantage of this, I had nothing on college students in Georgia.
According to a CBS Atlanta article, "Cash-Strapped Georgia College Students Turning to Food Stamps," by Candice Leigh Helfand, there has been a significant increase in college students taking advantage of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, better known as food stamps. Helfand writes:
Food stamp statistics for the state of Georgia provided to CBS Atlanta show that the average size of a household receiving food stamps in 2011 averaged out to 2.40 persons.
The totals for both households and individuals have increased over the past six years, but the latter has seen an especially large spike, rising from just under 950,000 individual users in 2006 to almost 1,740,000 in 2011.
That's almost twice as many individuals in Georgia enrolled in SNAP. This leap is partially attributed to Georgia college students, who, along with tuition and textbook costs, pay upward of $1,700 per semester for a standard meal plan (which, if you’re familiar with college meal plans, can include some disturbingly heinous "food").
This new trend seems to be a reflection of the entire country. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, there are about 46.3 million people participating in SNAP as of November 2011 -- a record number. It would appear our struggling economy is trickling down to young students now as well.
I'd say this is quite an advantageous, somewhat genius loophole for students. With the abysmal income most college students make, it's no surprise a good amount of them are easily eligible for food stamps -- a solid, food-restricted $200 per month, according to Helfand. And SNAP offers a much larger variety of culinary options in contrast to meal plans, which are generally restricted to those black holes of flavor: on-campus dining halls. I must admit a tinge of jealousy for not having thought to do this a couple of years ago; I would have made some tasty dishes to go along with my rice.
Do you feel this is a smart way for this generation's poor college students to navigate a shaky economy, or do you think these punks are taking advantage of a system put in place for families facing real hardship? Have you heard of students applying this tactic where you live? Take it to the comments!