Portland State University is the first four-year college in the U.S. to receive money from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) Training and Education Program—which also funds food stamps.
The university was recently awarded a $277,000 grant from the SNAP program to help low-income students who struggle to meet basic needs.
PSU plans to use the money to hire a new full-time case manager tasked with connecting vulnerable students with resources and to award reimbursements to eligible students for things such as fees, tuition, books, clothing, childcare and transporation.
Around 50 students will receive wrap-around support with the funds this year, and the money will also help the university assist more students with food stamp applications.
Jacen Greene, assistant director of PSU's Homelessness Research and Action Collaborative (HRAC), which was established last year, says the grant has traditionally been awarded to community colleges and nonprofit service providers and that this year the HRAC "identified the grant as an opportunity to expand the set of services we provide to our students to help them succeed."
He adds that the award period is only for one year, but that the university plans to reapply next year and expand the program to serve more students.
"Because this is a matching grant," Green says, "we will be looking for a funding partner to supply 50 percent of the grant for next year, which would then be matched by the federal government if awarded."
The grant also received praise from U.S. Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Portland) and U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), who emphasized the importance of addressing food insecurity among Oregon students.
"In the wealthiest country in the world, no one should go hungry," Blumenauer said in a statement. "Last year, I met with a group of Portland State students, and I was moved to hear their stories of their struggles with food insecurity. We have a responsibility to do our part to provide them with the resources they need."