President Obama and Gov. Mitt Romney were both criticized throughout the election season for focusing their campaigns almost exclusively on middle class voters. The needs of the poor were rarely debated at length or in detail. When the issue was discussed by the candidates, it was more to criticize each other’s positions than to explain how they would actually help the poor, by By
(For The Washington Post)
Obama criticized Romney’s record of shutting down companies and putting people out of work. Romney blamed Obama for the record number of Americans now relying on food stamps.
Howard University sophomore Breanna Hogan takes on the food stamp issue, with a twist, in the article below. She reports on the increasing number of college students relying on food stamps. Subsequent student stories will tackle homelessness, poverty among women and children, and other social issues that were minimally addressed or ignored altogether by candidates Obama and Romney.
This campaign season, Barack Obama and Mitt Romney’s heated debates over who can best fix the economy has pushed the issue of food stamps into the national discourse.
Nearly 47 million Americans rely on federal food assistance benefits, a 12-year high attributed to the weak U.S. economy and high rates of unemployment over the last five years. Lesser known is that college students are among the increasing numbers of people relying on food stamps. As tuition rates have risen and financial aid has fallen — and parents who were once a source of financial support have lost jobs or homes and become ineligible for college loans for their children — students have had to fend for themselves.
Some college students now work two and three part-time jobs to cover living expenses and some of their tuition. They’re applying for more student loans and claiming financial independence on their tax forms to become eligible for financial aid that does not factor in parental contributions. They’re cutting corners by renting required textbooks instead of buying them or simply making due without some textbooks. They’re also bypassing expensive college meal plans and applying for food stamps, an option that once carried a social stigma on campus but no longer does now that food stamp usage is more commonplace at colleges around the country.
For instance, Virginia spent $447,000 in SNAP benefits for college students in January 2007 but by January of this year the total had risen to $2.9 million, according to the state’s Department of Social Services. The state spent $30 million in food assistance benefits to college students in 2011.
“I never thought I would be on food stamps as a student, but with this economy I had no choice,” said student Courtney Davis, a second year student at Howard University majoring in maternal health and childcare.
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