North Carolina expands eligibility for food assistance benefits to college students during pandemic

North Carolina

RALEIGH — The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services today announced it is expanding eligibility for food assistance benefits to help college students who are struggling to purchase food and stay in school during the pandemic.

Some college students in North Carolina are now eligible to receive assistance through the Food and Nutrition Services (FNS) program under this temporary change of benefits approved by the federal government.

The U.S. Department of Education recently announced this additional assistance for college students and institutions through the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund (HEERF) grants program. The additional assistance provides ongoing relief from the COVID-19 Emergency Relief Act of 2020 and will be in effect until 30 days after the COVID-19 public health emergency is lifted.

“Reducing food insecurity, especially during this pandemic, is a top priority for the department,” said NCDHHS Chief Deputy Secretary for Opportunity and Well-Being Susan Gale Perry. “These benefits will help our college students stay in school and be able to safely get the proper nutrition needed to learn and thrive.”

To be eligible, students must have filed a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and have documentation of an estimated family contribution of $0 on their federal student aid determination or eligibility for work-study. To ensure every eligible college student who has been worried about their next meal is aware of the change and to encourage them to apply for FNS benefits, the Department of Education has begun its own direct outreach through email to inform college students about the temporary changes to the work requirement exemptions for the FNS program.

Eligible students who have applied for FNS benefits will receive an Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) card, similar to a debit card, that can be used to purchase food at a grocery store, farmers markets or online through Amazon, Walmart, Aldi, BJ’s Wholesale Club, Food Lion, Carli C’s and Publix.

College students and others can determine if they are eligible and apply for food assistance at or contact their local Department of Social Services.

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