Curious about SNAP?

SNAP expansion expected to bring more than $100 million in new food aid to Virginia

Below is an FAQ with answers to the most common questions about the program, who qualifies, and how it works. Recent legislation has temporarily expanded SNAP eligibility to include college students who meet specific eligibility criteria. If you have utilized the Patriot Pantry, you may want to look into the program and see if you qualify.

What is SNAP?

The Virginia Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) provides supplemental income for purchasing food for low-income households. An eligible person or family receives an Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) card, which is used like any other debit card at the grocery store. When a SNAP participant purchases eligible food items at a SNAP authorized store, their SNAP EBT account is debited to reimburse the store for food that was purchased.

Are Mason students eligible for SNAP?

Students attending an institution of higher education, like a college, university, trade school, or technical school more than half-time are eligible for SNAP IF they meet an exemption AND meet all other SNAP eligibility requirements. Mason defines half-time as registering for 6 credits for undergraduate students, and 4.5 credits for graduate students. Below is a breakdown of credit hours to help you identify whether or not you meet the SNAP eligibility requirement of being enrolled more than half-time:

Undergraduate Students

Credit Hours Time Status
12 or more Full-time
9 – 11 Three-quarter time
6 – 8 Half-time
1 – 5 Less than half-time

Graduate Students

Credit Hours Time Status
9 or more Full-time
6 – 8 Three-quarter time
4.5 – 5.5 Half-time
4.4 or less Less than half-time

For more information on full-time and part-time status, check out this page from the Office of the University Registrar:

What are Student Exemptions?

COVID-19 Temporary Update

As of January 16, 2021, a student is exempt if they meet one of the qualifications:

1. They are eligible to participate in state or federally financed work-study during the regular school year. Your school determines if you are eligible for work-study.


2. They have an Expected Family Contribution (EFC) of 0 in the current academic year (based on the FASFA- Free Application for Federal Student Aid).

In addition to the temporary COVID-19 exemptions, students can always meet one of the following exemptions to qualify for SNAP:

  • Are 17 years of age or younger or are age 50 or older.
  • Are unable to work due to mental or physical limitations.
  • Work an average of 20 hours a week in paid employment.
  • Be employed in self-employment business for an average of 20 hours a week receiving weekly earnings at least equal to the minimum unemployment rate times 20.
  • Participating in a state or federally financed work-study program.
  • Care for a child under the age of 6.
  • Care for a child age 6 to 11 and lack the necessary child care enabling you to attend school and work 20 hours a week or participate in work-study.
  • Are a single parent enrolled full-time in college and taking care of a child under 12.
  • Receive Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) assistance.
  • Are enrolled in a TANF Virginia Initiative for Education and Work (VIEW) program.
  • Be participating in an on-the-job training program.
  • Are assigned to, placed in, or self-placed in a college or other institution of higher education through:
    • A SNAP Employment and Training (SNAP E&T) program;
    • Certain other E&T programs for low-income households, which are operated by a state or local government and have an equivalent component to SNAP E&T;
    • A program under Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act of 2014 (WIOA);
    • A Trade Adjustment Assistance Program under Section 236 of the Trade Act of 1974
    • Part of a career and technical education program as allowed by section 3 of the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act of 2006 provided the program or course of study is:
      • Designed to be completed in four years or less, or
      • Limited to remedial courses, literacy, adult education, or English as a second language.

Programs such as Fast Forward, Great Expectations, or the Chancellors Merit programs operated through the Virginia Community College system will meet the career and technical education goals to enhance participants’ employability.

What Are Income Requirements?

This chart shows the gross monthly eligibility standard based on family size considering 200% of the Federal Poverty Line, or FPL. The FPL is set by the federal government each year is calculated centered on family size and income. FPL determines eligibility for many federal and state public programs. There is an exception to gross income for families with household members who have a disability and are 60 or older.

Household Size Gross Monthly Income
(200% of FPL)
Net Monthly Income
(100% of FPL)
1 $2,147 $1,074
2 $2,904 $1,452
3 $3,660 $1,830
4 $4,417 $2,209
5 $5,174 $2,587
6 $5,930 $2,965
7 $6,687 $3,344
8 $7,444 $3,722
Each Additional Member + $757 + $379

How Do I Apply?

You don’t need to go to an office! You can apply online and receive your EBT card in the mail. The quickest and easiest way to apply for SNAP is online through CommonHelp at

If you are eligible, you will be able to access your SNAP benefits no later than 30 days from the date the office received your application. If you have very little or no income for the month and you need help right away, you may qualify for SNAP benefits within 7 days.

How and where can I use SNAP?

SNAP benefits can only be used to buy food, and plants and seeds to grow food for your household to eat. You can use your EBT card to purchase food at any grocery store, farmers’ market, or online website that accepts SNAP like Amazon and Walmart.

Visit to learn more about shopping for groceries online with your SNAP benefits and more.

Use the map on the app to find grocery stores and farmers markets near you. 

Thank you to the American Heart Association for providing helpful information about SNAP benefits for college students.