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Wisconsin mulls student use of food stamps on campus

The University of Wisconsin-Madison is considering a new policy that would allow eligible students to use federally issued food stamps to pay for meals on campus.

As reported by The Journal Times, University Housing officials are currently working on a plan that would enable students and other individuals receiving aid through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program to use their government benefits at campus dining halls and other dining locations.

A concrete program could be in place as soon as the start of the fall 2017 semester. Should the initiative reach completion, it would make UW-Madison the first institution in the country to accept food stamps for use in on-campus dining establishments.

Student advocates pushing for the program suggest it’s a way for the university to better meet the needs of low-income students, while also helping to better include those relying on government assistance by enabling them to eat at dining halls with their peers.

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) is the federally funded benefit program formerly known as “food stamps.” Benefits provisioned through SNAP are loaded onto an Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) card, similar to a credit or debit card.

University officials are yet to fully work though the logistics of the proposed program, so no official start date has been announced. According to the Journal Time report, University Housing must apply to the U.S. Department of Agriculture for approval to become a SNAP retailer, and federal inspectors will have to visit campus dining facilities.

Federal regulations also limit what types of food may be purchased with government assistance, meaning University Housing and Dining departments will have to go through all of the items it sells to determine what would be eligible to sell to SNAP cardholders.

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