Take What You Need, Give What You Can : Help for Those With Low Incomes

Hunger is an issue for many college students (for more information see “The Poverty Trap”).

SCC recently opened a food pantry in hopes of helping to provide students in need with food.

According to Ángel Gonzalez, the Assistant Director of SCC’s Student Leadership Center, the pantry was started by Yvonne Terrell-Powell, a former associate dean at SCC. At its inception, Gonzalez says, the pantry was informal.

Terrell-Powell was able to procure funding from the school as well as from the Student Leadership Center, and have an official opening of the SCC Food Pantry at the beginning of winter quarter 2017. Since then, it has served over 100 students, Gonzalez says.

In addition to SCC’s food pantry, there are several services available to students with low incomes from the government, non-profit organizations and the local community.

Food

SCC Food Pantry – There is a pantry of free food available to students who need it on the third floor of the PUB.
The pantry is “open” 11:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m. on school days — but students who come during “closed” hours will not be denied assistance.
To access the food pantry, go upstairs in the PUB to the Student Leadership Center and tell the person at the desk that you are there for the food pantry. You will be brought to the pantry, which is located in a discreet area to give privacy to students receiving assistance.

Visitors to the food pantry are given a reusable bag to hold their food. They will also have access to personal hygiene products.
Students using the pantry are asked to record their name and what they take. This information is not shared with anyone, but it is used to keep track of how many students are using the food pantry and what kinds of food are the most helpful to have in stock.
The SCC food pantry accepts donations of nonperishable food.

Little Free Pantries – You know the cabinets some people have in front of their houses with free books? There are also cabinets out there with free food. In Shoreline, there are two Little Free Pantries.

Little Free Pantry North City is at 18009 12th Ave NE. Little Free Pantry Ridgecrest is down the road from Ridgecrest Elementary. It is in front of the gray house at 15815 11th Ave NE.

Both Little Free Pantries accept donations. If you would like to make your own Little Free Pantry, information to help get you started can be found at littlefreepantry.org.

Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) – This program is similar to what used to be called “food stamps.” It provides money to Washington residents with low incomes to buy food.
People who qualify for SNAP may also be eligible to receive cash.
For more information, visit washingtonconnection.org.

Quest Card – A Washington state resident who receives SNAP benefits (see above) gets an Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) card, which is also known as a Quest Card.

SNAP recipients have money placed into their accounts monthly, and can use the Quest Card like a debit card to spend that money.

Fresh Bucks – In participating Seattle and King County farmer’s markets, SNAP/EBT benefits are matched. Quest Card holders can match up to $10 at each farmer’s market they visit per day.

Shoppers at farmers markets can generally go to the information booth and use a debit card to buy tokens that are accepted by vendors who don’t take cards. When a person with a Quest Card uses it to purchase up to $10 of tokens, they will receive an equal amount of money in “Fresh Bucks.”

“Fresh Bucks“ must be spent on fresh fruit and veggies, but the tokens can be used to buy any non-taxable food items.

Cookbook – To make eating well more affordable, food-enthusiast Leanne Brown put together a cookbook with healthy recipes designed to cost $4 per day. Brown explains that $4 per person per day is a pretty good rule of thumb for what people receiving food assistance from the government get.

The cookbook is called “Good and Cheap” and can be downloaded for free at leannebrown.com/cookbooks.

Everything Else EBT

Because EBT cards are only given to people with low incomes, people with EBT cards can use them in some other places to receive need-dependent discounts.

ORCA Lift – EBT card-carrying Metro bus riders are eligible for discounted rates with the ORCA Lift cards. Representatives for ORCA Lift generally visit SCC’s campus to sign students up at least once per quarter. You can find more information by Googling ORCA Lift.

Museums – Several museums offer significant discounts to EBT card holders (like $1 or $2 per person, or cheap family memberships). Even if you don’t think you like museums, if you have kids to entertain, this ends up being a great deal.

Seattle museums that offer discounts for EBT holders include: the Seattle Children’s Museum, the Museum of History & Industry (MOHAI), the Museum of Flight and the Pacific Science Center.

School – All community colleges in Washington state have need-based programs to provide funding to students, and there are more out there than the ones you can get through the financial aid office. See “Workforce Education at SCC” on page five for more information.

Bills and Taxes

Energy Bills – Washington Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) provides services to help with home heating costs, including energy assistance, conservation education, furnace repair and replacement and weatherization.
You can find more information about this through benefits.gov.

Tax Credit – Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) is a program to give a tax refunds to people whose income over the previous tax year was low to moderate. The refund can be up to $6,000 and some change depending on your circumstances, so it doesn’t hurt to ask about it if you get your taxes done (see the Tax Prep section below).

Free for Everyone

Tax Prep – IRS-certified volunteers from United Way of King County are available at several locations, including most libraries, to do your taxes for free. There are no appointments for this service, which is convenient early in the year, but the closer it gets to April 12 (their last day of providing free help), the longer the lines get.

Check uwkc.org/need-help/tax-help to find out where and when tax help is available as well as what you need to bring with you.

Fine print — this service is not offered to people who earn more than $64,000 per year.

Drop-in Activities – Seattle Community Centers recently stopped charging for drop-in activities including fitness rooms, pool tables, basketball, pickleball, dodgeball, volleyball, Mahjong, bridge games and toddler gyms/rooms.

Museums – The Frye Art Museum is always free, even though it’s really cool, because rich art collectors willed their collection to Seattle along with an endowment that keeps the museum free and allows them to exhibit rotating exhibitions.

Many museums are free on the first Thursday of every month. Also, at some museums, the admission fee is not strictly mandatory — if you ask at the ticket counter, these museums will give you a free ticket.

The Seattle Public Library has a system that allows patrons to check out museum passes. For more information, go to spl.org/library-collection/museum-pass.

WHAT DOES THAT MEAN AGAIN?

EITC – Earned Income Tax Credit. A tax refund offered to people with low to moderate incomes.

EBT – Electronic Benefits Transfer. EBT cards, also known as Quest Cards are the means through which people can access governmental assistance, including SNAP (see below.)

LIHEAP – Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program.

ORCA – One Regional Card for All. ORCA cards are used to pay for public transportation in the Puget Sound region of Washington State.

Quest Card – Quest Cards, also known as EBT cards are the means through which people can access governmental assistance, including SNAP (see below).

SNAP – Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. This program is similar to what used to be called ‘food stamps.’ It provides money to people with low incomes to purchase non-taxable food items.

-Coral Nafziger

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