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SNAP for College Students

Many students attending an institution of higher education (i.e., college, university, trade/technical school) more than half-time (as determined by the institution) may be eligible for food assistance through the District’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) if they meet at least one of the exemptions listed below.

Students who meet an exemption must also meet all other SNAP eligibility requirements, such as income limits. The institution of higher education determines what is considered ‘half-time’ enrollment.

SNAP College Student Exemptions

  • Are under age 18 or are age 50 or older 
  • Are unable to work due to a physical or mental condition
  • Work at least 20 hours a week in paid employment
  • Participate in a state or federally financed work-study program (no minimum hours of work required)
  • Participate in an on-the-job training program
  • Care for a dependent child household member under the age of six
  • Care for a dependent child household member aged six to 11 years and lack the necessary child care enabling you to attend school and work 20 hours a week or participate in work-study
  • Are a single parent enrolled full-time in college and taking care of a dependent child under 12 years old
  • Receive Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) benefits
  • Are enrolled in school as a result of participation in the TANF Workforce Education and Training Program
  • Are assigned to, placed in, or self-placed in a college or other institution of higher education through SNAP Employment and Training, Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act of 2014 (WIOA), Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA), or Trade Readjustment Assistance (TRA)

Temporary Expanded Student Eligibility During COVID-19:

In response to the COVID-19 public health emergency, Congress has temporarily expanded SNAP eligibility. Students may be eligible for SNAP if they meet one of these temporary exemptions, in addition to any of the ongoing exemptions listed above:

  • Are eligible to participate in state or federally financed work-study during the regular school year even if you are not actually participating. The institution of higher education (i.e., the college or university) determines if a student is considered eligible for work-study.

  • Have an Expected Family Contribution (EFC) of $0 in the current academic year. Students receive an EFC after completing the Federal Application for Student Aid (FAFSA). You may find the EFC on your financial aid award letter, Student Aid Report, or ask your institution’s financial aid office.

How do I apply?

You can apply for SNAP online, using a mobile application on your phone, or submitting a paper application.  Learn more about ways you can. When you apply, you will need to answer questions about you and the people you live with to determine if you are eligible.

As a part of your application, you will have to supply proof of some things such as your identity, income, and proof that you meet at least one of the college student exemptions.  You are encouraged to submit proof of aspects of your eligibility with your application to help speed up the application process. For example, provide a copy of your ID so we can verify your identity, provide copies of your pay stubs if you receive income, and provide proof that you meet a student exemption such as a financial aid award letter.

What happens after I apply?

Once you submit your SNAP application, you will receive a phone call from the District for a brief interview to review your eligibility. You will be asked to provide proof of certain items, such as your identity and income if you haven’t already provided them. If you are approved for SNAP, you will receive your Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) card in the mail, which you can then start using to buy food.

How much are SNAP benefits? Where can I use SNAP benefits? What can I buy with SNAP?

Benefits are determined by considering the number of people in your household, income, and some expenses such as rent. Households with less income, after taking into account certain expenses, receive higher benefits.

If approved, benefits are loaded onto an EBT card that can be used as a debit card in participating stores, which includes most grocery stores and supermarkets, as well as many other smaller food stores and corner stores.

SNAP benefits can only be used to buy food that can be prepared at home; alcohol, tobacco, and hot/prepared foods cannot be purchased with SNAP. You can also use SNAP to buy eligible food online for delivery from Amazon, Giant, and Aldi (via Instacart).

Learn more: SNAP benefits

Can I receive SNAP if I’m living with my parents? Does their income count towards the SNAP income limits?

Generally, a SNAP “household” consists of anyone who lives together and buys and prepares food together. Your eligibility for SNAP will be determined together as a group, meaning the income of all members of the group count together and is compared to the program’s income eligibility limits based on the number of people in the household.

Certain household members must be included in the SNAP household together, regardless of how those members buy food. If you are under age 22 and living with your parents, are a parent of children under age 22 and live with your children, or you are living with a spouse, you must be included together in the same household and your eligibility for SNAP will be determined together. For example, if you are 18 years old and live with your parents and meet one of the student exemptions, your household must meet the eligibility requirements for a household of three, and the income of all three members combined would count towards the SNAP eligibility determination.

Can I be eligible for SNAP if I’m using a meal plan?

If you are living in a dorm and have a meal plan that pays for over half of your meals, you cannot be eligible for SNAP.

Does financial aid count as income towards the SNAP eligibility limit? Will getting SNAP affect my financial aid?

Most financial aid such as loans, grants, or scholarships that are received for educational expenses are not counted as income for SNAP and will not affect your SNAP eligibility. (Assistance to pay for normal living expenses such as room and board is not excludable and will be counted.) SNAP benefits will generally not affect eligibility for most student aid.

If I live in the District now, but my parents live in another state where I go during breaks, could I still be eligible for SNAP in the District? What if I commute to school in another state (such as Maryland or Virginia) but live in the District?

To receive SNAP in the District, you must live in the District while you are receiving SNAP, and show proof such as identification or a utility bill. If you reside in the District, you can be eligible for SNAP during the time you are living in D.C., unless you are receiving benefits in another state. For example, you would still be considered a District resident and could receive SNAP benefits in the District if you are enrolled in and commuting to school in another state while living in the District.

Can I get SNAP if I’m a Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipient or undocumented resident

Undocumented residents and DACA recipients are ineligible for SNAP. Federal SNAP rules restrict SNAP to U.S. citizens and certain lawfully present non-citizens, such as some refugees or asylees, or lawful permanent residents (generally after a waiting period of five years). For more information on federal SNAP restrictions for non-citizens, click here.

How long am I considered a student? How long am I eligible based on the exemption?

You are considered a student starting on the first day of the school term, and this enrollment will continue, including during breaks, until you leave school (such as graduation or you decide not to enroll). The work-study exemption begins either when the school term begins or work-study is approved (whichever is later) and ends when the school term ends. (It does not continue during breaks of one month or more unless you are working that month.) You can be exempt using the other exemptions as long as you continue meeting the exemption while in student status.

How do I verify if I meet an exemption?

To be eligible for SNAP as a student, you will need to show documentation that you meet an exemption. For example, if you are participating in work-study programs (or determined eligible to participate during the COVID-19 emergency, regardless of whether you are participating), you will need to show proof such as a financial aid award letter. Some of this documentation you will already need to provide when you apply for SNAP and you will not have to provide additional information. See the chart below for examples.

Examples of documents that can be used to verify student exemptions:

SNAP Student Exemption:

Examples of Verification Documents (this is not an exhaustive list)

Are under age 18 or are age 50 or older

Driver’s license, birth certificate, other proof (if not already provided when applying for SNAP to show identity)

Are unable to work due to a physical or mental condition

Letter from a health care provider, proof of receipt of disability benefits (if not already provided)

Work at least 20 hours a week in paid employment

Pay stubs, a letter from your employer (if not already provided)

Participate in a state or federally financed work-study program

Financial Aid or Work Study Award letter

Participate in an on-the-job training program

Program acceptance letter or other documents, contact from program administrators

Caring for children under the age of six

Child’s birth certificate or other proof (you would likely already provide this during your SNAP application)

Caring for children ages six to 11 and lacking childcare

Child’s birth certificate or other proof (you would likely already provide this during your SNAP application); you can attest to a lack of childcare

Single parent (full-time student) caring for a child under age 12

Child’s birth certificate or other proof (you would likely already provide this during your SNAP application); evidence of school enrollment

Receive TANF assistance/enrolled in the TANF work program

No additional verification is required (the District will have this information)

Are placed in college through eligible employment and training program

Program acceptance letter or other documents, contact from program administrators

What does it mean to be unable to work due to a mental or physical impairment?

If you are unable to work due to mental or physical disability or other impairment, you may be eligible. You do not have to be receiving disability benefits. You may be asked to provide proof of this disability, such as a note from a doctor or other health provider.

Learn More

For additional information about SNAP eligibility and what to expect if approved for SNAP, please review the following:

Questions: Call the ESA Public Benefits Call Center at (202) 727-5355 or for TTY/TDD call 711 / (855) 532-5465

 

Contact TTY: 
711