EKU Becomes First Kentucky University to Accept SNAP Benefits on Campus

Published on April 24, 2024

By Ethan Sirles

Eastern Kentucky University (EKU) and Aramark, the school’s food service provider, recently announced that EKU will be the first school in the Aramark Collegiate Hospitality Midwest Region with a convenience store (POD) accepting Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits. SNAP is a U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) program that provides food benefits to low-income families to supplement their grocery budget. 

“Part of being the School of Opportunity is making sure that students have access to basic needs and resources to support their personal and educational success,” said EKU President David McFaddin. “By becoming the first university in Kentucky to accept SNAP benefits on campus, we are keeping our promise to make higher education affordable and accessible for our region and the Commonwealth as a whole.” 

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, approximately one in four college students experiences food insecurity, which means they do not have adequate access to food products.

“We noticed some discussion about low food security on campus,” said Steve Caudill, the chief auxiliary services officer at EKU. “We wanted to show that we’re listening and wanted to provide extra resources on campus for students, faculty and staff.”

Caudill said a discussion about food security on campus gained a lot of momentum in early 2023 during a Food Security Forum hosted by representatives within EKU’s Food and Nutrition and Anthropology Departments. The forum allowed students, faculty and staff to discuss issues they saw on campus, leading to the creation of the Food Security Coalition, which meets every semester to discuss updates and changes to food security. From these discussions, the idea was presented to make SNAP benefits available on campus.

“By offering SNAP benefits on campus, EKU is making it clear that we want to support and invest in the physical and academic well-being of our students. The work will not stop there. I am hopeful that we will continue to find ways to support student basic needs by working together as a campus community,” said Dr. Abbigail Hickey, assistant professor of food and nutrition, who started the EKU Food Security Coalition along with Dr. Amanda Green, associate professor of anthropology.  

While working to bring SNAP accessibility to campus, EKU Dining alongside Aramark ensured SNAP compliance requirements were met. To make access possible, the Stratton POD needed to offer proper “staple” food items for purchase, such as deli meat, pasta, cereal, milk, fruit and protein bars. 
“It has been a pleasure working with faculty through the Food Security Coalition, with administration through EKU Dining, and with Aramark,” said Dr. Lara Vance, dean of students. “This was truly a team effort in serving EKU students.”
Soon, Caudill said, students with SNAP will be able to purchase any food items in the POD at Stratton.
Currently, 18 schools in the Aramark system in the United States provide SNAP access, and EKU will be the first in Kentucky. 
“We believe this will improve food accessibility for students, faculty and staff who have or can sign up for SNAP benefits,” said Caudill. “Everyone involved at EKU Dining hopes that this will become a trend within our state to push other schools to get the available resources to provide SNAP for their campuses here in Kentucky and surrounding areas."
EKU Dining anticipates being able to begin accepting SNAP benefits at the Stratton POD before the end of the spring semester. Eventually, EKU Dining plans to extend acceptance of SNAP benefits to Case Kitchen and the Business and Technology Center POD.