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Student advocacy coalition continues push for U.S. Department of Agriculture to remove barriers to SNAP benefits

January 31, 2024

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Student advocacy coalition continues push for U.S. Department of Agriculture to remove barriers to SNAP benefits

Over two dozen organizations support a petition calling for the removal of the interview requirement required for SNAP applicants to enroll. 

Today, nearly two dozen advocacy organizations joined Student Defense — along with the Center for Law and Social Policy, the California Student Aid Commission, California Competes, the Hope Center at Temple University, the Institute for College Access & Success, and Higher Learning Advocates — in asking the U.S. Department of Agriculture to remove the interview requirement for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) applicants to receive benefits.  

“It is clear that the interview requirement has become a burdensome hurdle that is separating eligible students from much-needed aid. Yet this requirement is not mandated by the law governing SNAP—it is a regulation that USDA has the power to repeal,” said the coalition in a letter sent to the agency following up on a Section 553(e) rulemaking petition filed on December 11, 2023.

The letter included signatories from the following organizations: The Institute for College Access & Success (TICAS); Young Invincibles; Nourish California; Higher Learning Advocates; Center for Higher Education Policy and Practice at SNHU; Food for People; San Diego Hunger Coalition; Food Share of Ventura County; Swipe Out Hunger; Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP); The Los Angeles Regional Food Bank; The Education Trust; New America Higher Education Program; SC Appleseed Legal Justice Center; Campus Compact; Washington Anti-Hunger & Nutrition Coalition; Maryland Hunger Solutions; Generation Hope; Food Research and Action Center; Greater Philadelphia Coalition Against Hunger; Hunger Free Colorado; and the William E. Morris Institute for Justice.

A 2021 review of SNAP enrollment data in California found that 31% of applicants in Los Angeles County were denied benefits due to missing their interview, compared to just 6% who were denied for failing to meet eligibility requirements. Missed-interview denials were even higher among working families and college applicants, affecting as many as 40% of otherwise eligible applicants, the study found. 

“We know that food insecurity is a barrier to graduation, so why are we putting up red tape between students and their next meal?,” said Student Defense President Aaron Ament. “USDA can help fight student hunger with the stroke of a pen.”

Since its founding, Student Defense has worked to remove barriers that prevent students from accessing benefits. In April 2021, the organization filed a rulemaking petition calling for the Department of Education to automatically discharge student loan debts for eligible borrowers who were deemed totally and permanently disabled by the Social Security Administration. In August 2021, the Department announced $5.8 billion in automatic Total and Permanent Disability (TPD) Discharge relief to 323,000 borrowers through the newly-implemented data-sharing program. According to data released by the Department, over 419,000 people have received $10.5 billion in discharges since the process was automated. 

A full copy of the letter can be found on the Student Defense website.