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An increasing number of college students in California are turning to food stamps: San Francisco Gate

Students protesting budget cuts at UC Berkeley. (File photo).
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Students protesting budget cuts at UC Berkeley. (File photo).

For an increasing number of students at prestigious California universities and others around the country, food is becoming an expense too tough to pay for out of pocket.

As a result, some are turning to food stamps for help, according to a report in the SFGate.

The publication reported that over 500 University of California at Berkeley students have applied to receive food stamps since January, an increase from just 111 applications for the entirety of 2016. In 2015, only 41 students applied for the service, also known as CalFresh, which can provide as much as $192 per month for food at grocery stores.

In an interview with SFGate, Berkeley student Esteban Vasquez summed up just how much food stamps have eased the strain on his wallet. "It's a huge sigh of relief knowing I can walk into a grocery store," he told the publication, "and purchase the items I need."

The publication reported that there is an acceptance rate of approximately 73 percent to obtain food stamps as part of the CalFresh program, an increase from 62 percent in 2015.

But U.C. Berkeley students aren't the only ones in need of assistance to afford food. The SFGate article noted the following:

A University of California survey of 9,000 students across all 10 campuses shed light on the need in 2015: Nearly 1 in 5 students, 19 percent, said they had too little to eat "due to limited resources." Another 23 percent routinely ate substandard food with little variation.

According to a document for CalFresh on UC Berkeley's website, students must meet a number of requirements in order to be eligible for food stamps. These include meeting a maximum monthly income, being a U.S. citizen, being enrolled as a student (at least half-time) and working a minimum of 80 hours per month.

The Alameda County Social Services Agency listed $1,980 as the monthly maximum gross income for an individual to be eligible for the benefit.

"Financial stress is one of the top stressors college students experience," the UC Berkely CalFresh document states. "Many students don't know they might be eligible for governmental assistance with food."

The increased need for food stamps among some California college students come as tuition costs for higher education have risen in recent years, leading to mounting loan debts for many U.S. millennials. The U.S. Department of Education reports that over 42 million Americans owe approximately $1.33 trillion in federal student loans.

Meanwhile, the average loan debt for 20-year-olds is $22,135 and is $34,033 for 30-year-olds.

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