Summer quarter has seen the introduction of Bellevue College’s Interim EBT Complementary Food Offering Program. This new program allows students and faculty currently receiving food stamps access to food on campus via the school’s cafeteria.
Once a day, free of charge, students and faculty with an EBT card may select a small cup of soup and/or a Smucker’s Uncrustables Peanut Butter & Grape (or Strawberry) sandwich from inside the Cafeteria. Recipients must take these items to the cashier and show an EBT card and student ID to qualify. Names and personal information are not collected and beyond possible security cameras, pictures are not taken.
Previously, students on food stamps were required to go off campus to the nearest EBT retailer in order to make food purchases. This policy has come under criticism from students as it would often require them to interrupt their studies.
“We’re trying to see how [the program] works, what reaction we get, how many we get processed through and how big the demand is,” said Director of Food Services Todd Juvrud, “because I know there are a lot of students who don’t qualify for EBT, because they have to go under their parent’s income even though they’re not living at home and so they can’t get food stamps.”
Vice President of Administrative Services Ray White say it is his intent to expand the new program to include a greater selection of goods. Additionally, the creation of an on campus food bank has been suggested and is currently under consideration.
“I really don’t think it’s appropriate to keep trying to target [an EBT terminal] as our ends… because it doesn’t fit most people,” said White. “Some students are in a very unique situation, where it might make sense to use an EBT card here, but for 99.9 percent of us, it’s not the right tool. We could do way better by our students and our employees in need.”
However, the interim program’s implementation still begs the questions of when, if ever, BC and attain an EBT terminal on campus. The installation of an EBT terminal would be seen by many students and faculty as a step towards empowering BC’s impoverished.
“While this offering is considerate, it does not remove the fact that systemic discrimination toward an impoverished segment of the student and faculty population will exist on the Bellevue College campus for as long as there is no EBT terminal, or some other constructive method, that enables students and faculty to purchase qualified food on campus with their EBT cards,” said BC student Shadow Jones*.
There are currently over 500 students enrolled at BC who are on food stamps, provided by the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, who make their food purchases with an EBT card.
Recipients of EBT are allotted $200 per month for food purchases. This allows a recipient $6.67 per day to feed themselves.
During the 2012-2013 school year, the acting Associated Student Government, led by then-president Tahkmina Dzhuraeva, signed a resolution pledging their support to obtaining an EBT terminal on campus.
If successful with an application, BC would be the first college in the nation to have an EBT terminal on campus.
BC officials gathered in March earlier this year to discuss the potential of putting forth a SNAP application that would lead to an EBT terminal on campus. This terminal would allow recipients of EBT to purchase specific qualified foods on campus instead of needing to travel off campus to the nearest EBT retailer.
BC announced mid-April that the institution would be gathering the necessary means to submit an application to be granted an EBT terminal via the United States Department of Agriculture’s Food and Nutrition Services. This effort was being overseen by Juvrud and White.
In June, the institution’s SNAP application was rejected. FNS cited the fact that the application was incomplete.
“[BC] does not have a sole proprietor or a board of trustees. They want [a CEO’s] social security number and their federal tax ID number. We don’t have it, we’re State. [FNS] have no way to process [the application] without those IDs,” said Juvrud.
*Name has been changed.