The End of the Ramen Diet: Higher Education Students and SNAP Benefits

29 Pages Posted: 19 Aug 2018

See all articles by Erika Dunyak

Erika Dunyak

Harvard University - Harvard Food Law and Policy Clinic

Date Written: 2018


Americans joke that college students have so little money that they subsist on 10 cent packs of ramen. Statistically, college students face much higher rates of food insecurity than the general population and the situation is particularly dire for students of color. Much has been written on this area in recent months and years and many commentators are seeking to denormalize poverty, hunger, and the “freshman 15” on campuses. This article will look to a solution for this hungry and often neglected population. In 2010, the Health, Hunger-Free Kids Act (HHFKA) reauthorized the Federal School Lunch Program. HHFKA contained several innovations, however, one that is particularly relevant is the “identified students” provision. Under this scheme, students whose families already receive Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits, Medicaid, or are enrolled in several other federal assistance programs qualify for free or reduced-price school meals without a separate application. With the next iteration of the Farm Bill, SNAP should be adjusted to similarly accommodate low income college students. Under this new program, students who qualify for Perkins Loans, Federal Work Study, Pell Grants, Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants, and similar federal programs would also receive SNAP benefits without an additional application. The benefits to such a program would be tremendous. In many states, college students are specifically excluded from receiving benefits such as SNAP and Medicaid. This policy change would move students away from food insecurity, reduce the burden of schools providing high quality dining experiences that are a major contributor to the cost of higher education, reduce student debt, and bring the political capital of university students to SNAP.

Keywords: SNAP, College Hunger, Hunger

Suggested Citation

Dunyak, Erika, The End of the Ramen Diet: Higher Education Students and SNAP Benefits (2018). Journal of Food Law and Policy, Vol. 14, No. 1, 2018, Available at SSRN:

Erika Dunyak (Contact Author)

Harvard University - Harvard Food Law and Policy Clinic ( email )

122 Boylston St
Boston, MA 02130
United States

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