Knowing that my financial need for this school year and those to come will far exceed my means, I submitted an application for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Progam, SNAP, also known as food stamps. Filling out the form was easy. Oregonians can apply online here http://www.oregon.gov/DHS/assistance/foodstamps/foodstamps.shtml. But when I got to the DHS office, I was in for a big disappointment.
The restrictions on food benefits for students are strict. A student can only receive SNAP benefits if they are:
A full time student working 20 hours or more a week
A single parent with a child under 12
A married parent with a child under 6
Working any hours of work-study
Ah, there it is, my weird student situation rearing its ugly head again. Since I already have a degree in English, I'm ineligible for work-study (and most scholarships). But I'm not a graduate student, so I can't work a graduate teaching position. Therefore, in addition to paying out the wazoo for school, I also can't eat.
The worker at the DHS office was cold. As I failed to hold back tears wondering how in the world I was going to afford to eat, he passed over a list of places that hand out food boxes and told me it wasn't his decision. Them's the rules. I was really counting not having to worry about where I would find my next meal. It took a hit to my pride to admit that I needed government help, and finding out it was all for nothing is depressing. I don't know how any full time student can manage to work 20 hours a week and still get good grades like I want.
I'm not taking the denial lying down. I'm going back with my employment verification and financial aid in hand, and writing my elected officials to explain how unfair this is for independent students without help from their parents. I encourage other students in this situation to do the same.
Meanwhile, I'll have to stop by Kesey Square in downtown Eugene for Food Not Bombs, free food every Friday at 2pm and pull my weight for church dinners at The Gathering Place in Springfield on Sundays at 5:30. This blog may turn into a lot of "eating well on the cheap."