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Food Assistance

Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program now available on campus

With more than 1 in 3 students at Massachusetts public colleges and universities struggling to put food on their table, Bridgewater State University is taking action.

The university, in partnership with food service provider Sodexo USA, recently began participating in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). Students facing food insecurity now have an on-campus location to use SNAP benefits to buy food.

“By not going hungry, they can focus better on their academics,” said Elizabeth Ching-Bush, dean of students and acting assistant vice president for student life. “The biggest thing is they’re remaining healthy.”

Students who receive SNAP benefits can use them to buy staples such as bread and milk, fully prepared heat-and-eat meals, and pre-packaged salads. These offerings are sold at Bears-to-Go, a new section in the Bear’s Den dining hall that accepts other payment options in addition to SNAP.

“We want to find a way to build a community that encompasses everyone, and with that comes offering different forms of payment, which includes the SNAP option,” said Staci DeSimone, general manager for BSU Dining.  

Bridgewater joins Holyoke Community College as the only public colleges and universities in Massachusetts to participate in SNAP, a federal program that helps low-income people purchase food. BSU also runs an on-campus food pantry and a program where students can donate unused dining hall meal credits to peers in need.

These are recommendations of the Massachusetts Hunger-Free Campus Coalition, which was formed in 2019 to address food insecurity among students at public colleges and universities.  

“I think it’s a great approach,” said Kate Adams, public policy manager for the Greater Boston Food Bank, which co-leads the coalition. “I think Bridgewater State is leading on a lot of these efforts.”  

Having an on-campus location that accepts SNAP benefits is important because many students do not have a car to drive to off-campus shops, Ching-Bush said.  

The initiative also reduces stigmas because students in need can purchase food at the same place as their peers. And it raises awareness about SNAP for students who are eligible for the benefit but do not participate in the program that can help alleviate a barrier to earning a college degree, according to Adams.  

“Cost of living is so high right now, it really builds up for students who are already stretched thin,” she said. “Sometimes food is the first thing to go.”  

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