The NC Department of Health and Human Services (NCDHHS) announced on Thursday, April 29 that the state is now expanding eligibility for food assistance benefits to college students in North Carolina.

The move comes after a year-long rollout of one county state and federal plan after another to help virtually all groups hurt by the pandemic.  In addition to the many new programs, a lot of pre-existing programs have been expanded.

Due to this latest move by NCDHHS, some college students in the state are now eligible to receive assistance through the Food and Nutrition Services (FNS) program – a program once known as “food stamps.” 

This “temporary” change of benefits has been cleared by the federal government which bears much of the cost of the FNS programs.

The new benefits will run through at least June 30 of this year.

The help comes through the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund that is part of the ongoing help from the COVID-19 Emergency Relief Act of 2020.

According to the terms of the aid: “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 college students who’ve applied for FNS benefits will receive an Electronic Benefits Transfer card, which is similar to a debit card.  That “EBT” card can be used to purchase food at grocery stores, farmers markets – and, due to recent changes, even online through Amazon, Walmart, Aldi, BJ’s Wholesale Club, Food Lion, Carli C’s and Publix.

College students can determine if they’re eligible and apply for food assistance at

Alternatively, they can contact their local Department of Social Services.