York Students Aim To Extend EBT Card Use
Rockaway resident and student Steven McCartney thinks that he should be able to use his federal food stamp benefits to eat a healthy meal in the York College cafeteria, but federal rules prevent him from doing that relatively simple act.
“To me, the idea is simple,” McCartney, who is a York student and University Student Senate member, told The Wave. “Students need to eat nutritious meals and they often can’t pay for them even though they belong to the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) because that program does not allow payment for meals eaten in a restaurant. I can understand that, but the student cafeteria should not be treated the same as a local restaurant.”
McCartney and others in the program are given an Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) card that they swipe at authorized stores to use their SNAP benefits.
They want to be able to do the same in the school cafeteria.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture administers SNAP at the federal level even though the local programs are administered by the states.
The federal guidelines are explicit.
SNAP recipients cannot use their benefits to buy beer, wine, liquor, cigarettes or tobacco, they cannot use the card for vitamins or medicine and they cannot use it to buy food that will be eaten in the store.
McCartney and other local students who attend York do not think that is equitable for SNAP recipients who spend long hours taking courses and studying at the college.
“Students can bring their own food from home, but we want the best nutrition possible, and there is a link between nutrition and a good education,” McCartney said. “That’s why the Social Work Club started the petition to get the EBT cards allowed in the cafeteria. This is important to our students, who are mostly low-income and minority.”
“Understanding the relationship between education and nutrition, this initiative will allow for equality and accessibility [to proper nutrition] for all students,” said Cory Provost the Chairperson for the University Student Senate.
A spokesperson for the USDA said that the purpose of the federal law was to improve family nutrition for families who could not afford healthy food and for those transitioning from welfare programs to self-sustainability. It was not written to supply prepared food or to allow for people to eat in restaurants.
“It is clear that the rules would have to be changed in order for EBT cards to be used in a college cafeteria,” the spokesperson said.
She declined to speculate as to whether or not such a change could be made.
York College officials declined to comment on the issue.