Food stamp stigma prevents students from seeking government assistance

Eva Gonzalez

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CalFresh aims to diminish the negative stereotype of food stamps by offering government assistance to students for food. Photo credit: Allisun Coote


When many people hear the words “food stamps” they may associate them with poverty. However, the CalFresh program aims to boost the economy and help those in need.

“People seem to not want to receive aid because there is a negative stigma around food stamps,” said Jenny Breed, health education specialist and director of CalFresh.

The stigma may prevent thousands of people from purchasing food with food stamps, she said.

Joselin Medina, sophomore psychology major, understands why people who use food stamps might feel judged by others. Photo courtesy of Joselin Medina.


“I understand why someone wouldn’t use food stamps,” said Joselin Medina, sophomore psychology major. “They freak out because they don’t want to be judged while using them.”

However, one in seven people in the United States rely on government assistance.

According to the food research and action center, there is a total of 47 million people who use food stamps in the U.S.

In local terms, there is an estimated 16,650 people in Butte County who are eligible to apply for government assistance, but do not apply for any programs, Breed said.

Because of the eligible people who are not applying for government aid, Butte County is losing federal funds. If these people applied, the county would receive a total of $18.6 million dollars in federal funding, Breed said.

One positive aspect of food stamps is the multiplier effect. This contributes to an increase of income in the economy due to more spending.

“We want more people involved because it boosts our economy and creates jobs,” Breed said.

On the other hand, students on campus seem to not worry much about the stigma and are willing to use food stamps with ease and no worries.

When asked if he would use food stamps, Gangadhar Yelwande, senior computer science major, said he would definitely use them.

Gangadhar Yelwande, senior computer science major, would use food stamps if he needed to without being ashamed. Photo credit: Eva Gonzalez


“I would like to use them,” Yelwande said. “I wouldn’t feel ashamed.”

On the contrary, Cindy Bonilla, sophomore undeclared major, uses food stamps but does not tell many people.

“I use food stamps, but I definitely use them secretly,” Bonilla said. “I wouldn’t want for people to find out that I use them because people give you this negative feeling toward yourself.”

CalFresh encourages students to not feel ashamed of using assistance. After all, the goal of government assistance programs is to help students and the community, Breed said.

When it comes to food insecurity, the stereotypes associated with food stamps can limit a student’s desire to get help, Medina said.

Despite stigmas and stereotypes, CalFresh encourages students to ask for help when they need it.

“A lot of people tend to not get food stamps because they feel like they are under the federal poverty level,” Medina said. “I use them and I am not ashamed.”

Eva Gonzalez can be reached at [email protected] or @egonza13 on Twitter.