Why this work is important

College students experience food and housing insecurity at unacceptably high rates. Food and housing insecurity leave many students with few options and can hinder the completion of a college degree.

From a total of 86,000 students who participated in a recent Hope Lab survey, conducted at 123 community college and university campuses across the country:

  • 45% were food insecure in the previous 30 days
  • 56% were housing insecure in the last year
  • 17% were homeless in the last year

Within these alarming rates are even more alarming inequities. Nationally, Transgender students, as well as Black and Native American students, are disproportionately impacted by hunger as compared to White students.

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) is one resource that can help students become more financially stable, allowing them to finish their degree and meet their goals.

Unfortunately, SNAP is under-utilized by college students.  A recent U.S. Government Accountability Office report found that nationally almost 2-million students who were potentially eligible for SNAP did not report receiving benefits. There are many reasons potentially eligible students don’t access SNAP, including stigma and confusion about student eligibility.

“I hear it a lot, that someone else needs SNAP more than them, even when they can’t eat lunch all week.  You don’t have to go hungry. You don’t need to go hungry. SNAP is a resource! SNAP is for you!”

– Portland Community College student

What you can do to help students access SNAP?

Having a strong SNAP outreach strategy that centers the students most impacted by hunger, and providing SNAP application assistance on campus, works to break down stigma and increase access to the program by offering information and support in trusted spaces. Outreach and application assistance are most effective when students, faculty, staff and leadership voices are all involved in the creation and implementation of an outreach plan so that your work reaches the greatest number of students possible, and the campus-wide work is aligned and coordinated.

Everyone can do this work. You can be a student, administrator or faculty. If you’re a student, you can table about SNAP at events on campus, talk about SNAP in class announcements, or create a social media campaign to get the word out. If you’re a faculty member, you can make sure to add a basic needs statement to your syllabus and know where to refer students for more information. Administrative staff can support students doing SNAP outreach, provide application assistance, and work to build collaboration across campus for a unified SNAP outreach plan.

Many Oregon higher education institutions are starting to do SNAP outreach on their campuses and developing best practices to expand access–learn more here.

College SNAP Outreach and Assistance Toolkit

This toolkit exists to assist you in providing SNAP outreach and application assistance program at your college. Please click on the following sections of the toolkit where you can find the information and tools you will need.

College student SNAP eligibility guidelines were reinterpreted in Oregon in 2019, making many more students eligible. Click here for details on college student SNAP eligibility.

Understanding SNAP student eligibility is critical for making sure students can access the program.  It makes it possible for you to confidently talk about SNAP with students and design effective SNAP outreach strategies.  

To assist you as you talk with students about SNAP, we’ve created a quick eligibility checklist. A student can check off everything that applies to them as you review it together, so the student can better understand if they may be eligible for SNAP. Only Oregon Department of Human Services (DHS) can determine eligibility for SNAP, so if a student is uncertain, please encourage them to apply. See this FAQ Guide on College Student SNAP eligibility which provides answers to commonly asked questions.

Stigma is a major reason many college students aren’t accessing SNAP. It’s important that all of your messaging and actions on campus work to break it down!

Click here to download a short overview of how to address stigma in your SNAP messaging.

We know talking with students about SNAP and food insecurity can be difficult. We have created some short scenarios for you to practice, build your confidence, and make it easier to have conversations when students stop by to talk with you. Click here to download the short practice scenarios.

Outreach is essential for ensuring SNAP information reaches students, so they know what the program is and how to access it. We’ve highlighted several examples of outreach strategies happening at schools around Oregon. Use these examples to spark ideas for you and your team as you plan for SNAP outreach on your campus. 

Creating a SNAP outreach plan that includes short-term and long-term outreach strategies can help you reach students immediately and also give space for bigger, collaborative campus-wide outreach, which may take longer to implement. These SNAP outreach strategies work best when connected to existing food justice, STEP and other basic needs programming already happening on campus. We highly recommend designing a collaborative, aligned outreach plan that involves student, faculty, administration and leadership voices in its creation and implementation. It’s also critical to center the students who are disproportionately impacted by hunger in your planning and in your outreach.

Please download and read through these examples of SNAP outreach strategies and best practices at higher-education institutions.

During your outreach strategy planning, it may be helpful to use a criteria matrix to make decisions on what strategies to use. This criteria matrix is not meant to limit possibilities but to provide a way to make decisions on what’s effective and centers specific values in your work. Download the criteria matrix.

We’ve developed outreach materials for you to use. Students provided input on these materials and helped shape the messaging. All materials feature key SNAP messages or eligibility information for students. They all can be downloaded and printed.

Many of these materials have space for you to share information about where a student can go on your campus to find out more about SNAP. In this space you could stick a label or write in information. We’ve used labels from here for the relevant materials (the linked label fits great on the bookmarks below).

Outreach materials

Hey Students Poster

eligibility information


Hey Students Bookmark

eligibility information


"All students have the right to be free from hunger" materials

addressing stigma

PosterHandouts (multi)

"College hunger is not a rite of passage" materials

addressing stigma

PosterHandouts (multi)

How to apply for SNAP: A Student's Guide Flyer


Button templates

tabling material


Digital Outreach & Correspondence

Social media plan

  • Images are available for social media using “All students have the right to be free from hunger” and “College hunger is not a rite of passage” messaging
  • Messaging to students in social media should be positive, informative and address stigma.
  • For an effective social media plan, messaging should be short, punchy and consistent. Posts should include a picture, link or video, as these will show up more frequently and to more people on social media.
  • Tag relevant parties in your posts. You can tag your school or other groups on campus you are working with. You can also tag us! We are @HungerFreeOregon on Facebook, @hungerfreeor on Twitter, and @hunger_free_or on Instagram.
  • If you are working in Instagram or Twitter, you should include hashtags. You can create your own or use some of our hashtags: #SNAPisforyou and #SelfiesforSNAP. For selfie boards to use with college hunger messaging, click here.
  • Post consistently. If you feel like weekly is too often (or not often enough), adjust your posting schedule accordingly, but make sure it is consistent.

Email/letter template

  • This template includes basic information about SNAP, college student eligibility and links to more information. It can be used for SNAP outreach through email listservs or as a letter that can be included in financial aid award letters or other similar correspondence.

Providing regular application assistance in trusted spaces on-campus helps students easily complete the application process and navigate DHS. This section features an application assistance guide, along with a PowerPoint, to train others at your school.

Application Assistance Guide  
This guide is a step-by-step manual on how to assist a student in completing a SNAP application.  This guide provides in-depth detail about student eligibility, where to access DHS forms and the online application, how to assist a student in filling out the online application, how to help the student submit the application, & follow-up assistance tips.

Review the online SNAP application
We recommend going through the online application as practice before you assist a student. You can set-up your own account and try out the questions, making sure you don’t submit. The application assistance guide provides key points to know about the online application.

Students have the right to advocate for themselves during and after the DHS interview. If a student feels like they’ve been wrongly denied SNAP, they can appeal the decision and request a hearing with DHS about their case.
As a school representative, you can develop relationships with a nearby DHS office and help students navigate. You can call a DHS worker to ask them to call a student back or ask an office manager or a lead worker to review a student’s case if you felt like something went wrong (a student can request this too).
The public benefits hotline can help, call 1-800-520-5292 for legal advice about government benefits or representation for a hearing.

Learn from Others
We can connect you to SNAP outreach contractors and contacts at schools across Oregon if you want to learn about what they’re doing.

  • Join the Hunger-Free Campuses listserv–an email listserv for those interested in being connected to updates and legislative opportunities to support student basic needs in Oregon-by contacting Chris Baker at [email protected]
  • Pathways to Opportunity brings Oregon community colleges together to increase student access to federal, state, and local resources to ensure student success. Learn more here.

Additional resources to support your SNAP access efforts.

Culture of Caring
No one program or initiative is going to end hunger and houselessness for students. SNAP outreach and application assistance should be coupled with programs and initiatives such as a food pantry, emergency funds, shifting the on-campus culture to a “culture of caring” and having basic needs navigators on campus.

To learn more about creating a campus-wide culture of caring, check out this case study from the Hope Lab at Temple University: Amarillo Case Study on the Culture of Caring.

Equity Lens

Make sure the SNAP outreach and application assistance work on your campus is equity focused. It might be helpful to use an Equity Lens for outreach and application assistance plans. The Equity Action Team (EAT) at Hunger-Free Oregon has developed several equity lenses and we strongly encourage you to use them as you plan and implement your SNAP outreach and application assistance strategies.

STEP (SNAP 50/50)
Students who are receiving SNAP and pursuing their GED, English communication skills (ESL), or a career focused program can also benefit from the STEP program available at each community college in Oregon. The STEP program supports students as they advance in their career pathway, build skills, earn college credentials (certificates to degrees), and move into career opportunities that offer economic mobility. STEP offers students individualized navigation and coaching, so they can find and complete the right college program.

Based on each college’s available resources, there is also funding to help with unmet needs–gap funding to pay for the tuition and fees financial aid won’t cover, books, tools, and transportation. The program is entirely optional, and designed to give students what they need, when they want it. For more information and to find the best contact for each college, click here.

Reading Materials
Additional reading materials related to SNAP, food systems, food justice and equity. These are great to deepen your knowledge about systemic and root causes of hunger.

Trainings and Workshops

If there’s interest on your campus to start or expand SNAP outreach, we facilitate interactive workshops to help you come up with coordinated outreach strategies. We have provided workshops for University of Oregon and Portland Community College that resulted in coordinated strategies and implementation plans for their schools. Reach out to us if you’re interested!

Contact us

[email protected]