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Food pantry and SNAP benefits available to more college students in need

Food pantry
Posted at 4:53 PM, Mar 16, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-16 17:56:00-04

LAKELAND, Fla. — We’ve all heard the term 'poor college student,' but some students are struggling more than others.

“There’s a poor college student and then there’s a poor college student that literally goes home with nothing in their pantry who are doing it on their own and every penny counts,” said Kim Deronda, Testing & Tutoring Center Manager at Polk State College.

Located on the Lakeland campus, Polk State Pantry provides low-income students, discreet assistance by offering food and personal hygiene items.

“Grab a granola bar and a bottle of water, but also so they could pack a bag of groceries. So, if when they were going home, they were going to an empty shelf they had a way to make dinner for themselves, they had a way to feed their families,” Deronda said.

Pre-pandemic the pantry would get upwards of 50 visits a week. While the need is still there it’s been difficult to get food to students because they’re no longer on campus.

The federal SNAP program is another option available to college students. It provides cash benefits to low-income families and individuals so they can purchase food.

It’s been temporarily expanded to college students. Students enrolled at least half-time in an institution of higher education and meet one of the two criteria can apply.

“Previously college students had to be federal work study or something like that. The CRRSSA Act has expanded so now students that has and expected family contribution or EFC of 0 is also eligible to receive SNAP benefits,” said Larry Pakowski, Interim Executive Dean Polk State College.

Students can receive up to $3,000 per semester.

“Hungry students aren't successful students. So, this opens up an opportunity for students to have access to funding that’s going to help them to be able to fill their stomachs to be able to succeed in their classes and really focus on their studies,” Pakowski said.