MADISON, Wis. -- The University of Wisconsin-Madison is now accepting food stamps as payment for eligible items at one of its campus convenience stores after student campaigns urged the school to do so to alleviate food insecurity.
WISC-TV reports users of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, commonly known as food stamps, can buy federally eligible grocery items at the Flamingo Run campus convenience store. It's the first location on campus to take food stamps.
College students are not immune from hunger. According to a 2016 report by the National Student Campaign Against Hunger & Homelessness, about one in five students at four-year colleges qualify as having "very low food security."
Brendon Dybdahl, spokesperson for University Housing told WISC-TV hat UW-Madison started its plans to accept food stamps last year. He said the university hopes to eventually extend food stamp acceptance to other on-campus stores.
"The hope is to eventually expand it out to a couple of our other convenience stores on campus," Dybdahl said. "We had looked originally at being able to offer it in our dining markets, cafeterias and dining halls and all that, but right now the federal guidelines kind of prohibit us from having those places be eligible.
Dybdahl said the university is unable to extend food stamp access to its dining halls because the federal government doesn't allow users to purchase hot, prepared foods with SNAP benefits.
"We would love, if some day the guidelines change, and we had the opportunity to offer that experience to students," Dybdahl said.
So far, Dybdahl said, the rollout has been slow, with only six SNAP transactions in the roughly two weeks since the store has started taking transactions. However, Dybdahl hopes to see more students take advantage as word gets out.
Dybdahl said ultimately, the university hopes to help students dealing with hunger feel more connected to campus.