SNAP for U: The what, why, and how

The SNAP for U Project was developed through a collaboration of MOCAN’s Food Systems Work Group members in 2020. The team consists of professors from University of Missouri Kansas City and Missouri Southern State University as well as Extension Professionals from the University of Missouri. The team has also included contributions from a variety of graduate and undergraduate students from a variety of fields (Social Work, Health Sciences, Graphic Design).

Food insecurity is a complex issue facing about 10% of the general population in the United States today. Previous research suggest rates in college students is about 4 times higher. Research shows lack of sufficient food and nutrients have significant negative academic outcomes. Some institutions offer food pantries, but this is a band-aid for a chronic issue.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, the USDA expanded eligibility criteria for college students to utilize Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits. The SNAP for U team formed with the goal of learning more about rates of food insecurity in Missouri college students within various institution types, knowledge of SNAP benefit potential eligibility, barriers and facilitators for college students applying for and accessing SNAP benefits.


The goals of the project are to gain information surrounding food insecurity in Missouri’s college and technical school students, spread awareness of the data collected, and ultimately end stigma surrounding college students applying for and utilizing SNAP benefits. Use data collection to increase awareness of institutions on what they can be doing to assist their students.


Contact us

If you’d like to get in touch with our team, feel free to reach out to Candace Rodman, the Executive Director of the Missouri Council for Activity and Nutrition (MOCAN), or contact the other team members:


  • College Student Survey: This was the first project we did to gain some base knowledge about what was going in with Missouri students. We surveyed 9 higher education institutions across Missouri, asking questions about SNAP knowledge, food insecurity rates (we used a validated survey to assess food insecurity), facilitators and barriers for college students utilizing SNAP benefits, what foods they thought SNAP benefits should be able to be used on, and more. We had over 800 students across 9 higher education institutions including public, private, technical, community colleges, and one historically Black college or institution (HBCU). Our team used the results of this initial survey to inform future work.
  • College Student Focus Groups: After the student survey, we conducted online focus groups to understand what students think colleges can do to assist with reducing their food insecurity. We asked them to expand more on facilitators and barriers to accessing SNAP benefits.
  • Toolkit for College Students Designed by College Students: Our research showed many college students didn’t really know much about what SNAP was, so we wanted to create a resource for college students to learn about SNAP. We had some undergraduate students draft a toolkit with valuable information and design that was appealing and applicable to them. Our plan is to share the toolkit once it’s been piloted.
  • College Administrator Interviews: After interviewing college students, we wanted to learn from people working at institutions with students, so we decided to interview administrators to get their take. We interviewed 5 administrators from various institution types to inform how to distribute a survey.
  • College Administrator Surveys: After interviewing administrators, we sent out surveys to college administrators at different institution types, asking them about their knowledge of food insecurity rates in students, SNAP knowledge including exclusion criteria, and which institutional department(s) should help students with food insecurity.
  • Nutrition Program Associate (NPA) Interviews: We conducted online interviews with nutrition professionals whose job is to enroll people in SNAP, asking them questions about their experiences in working with college students to aid them in enrolling students in SNAP benefits.
  • Nutrition Program Associate (NPA) Surveys: We sent online surveys to NPAs to assess their thoughts on how to address food insecurity in college students across Missouri.
  1. Gardiner, K., Chrisman, M., Rodman, C., Gremaud, A., Cullers, A. SNAP for U: Promoting a research driven SNAP Toolkit among College students. Oral presentation at the Society of Public Health Education annual conference, St. Louis, MO, 2024. 
  2. Gardiner, K., Cullers, A., Brooks, M., Mohamed, R., Chrisman, M., Rodman, C., Gremaud, A., Using Graphic Design to Introduce SNAP Education to Missouri College Students. Oral Presentation at the 2023 Missouri Southern State University Artful Medicine Symposium, Joplin, MO, October 2023.    
  3. Gardiner, K., Chrisman, M., Cullers, A., Gremaud, A., Rodman, C., The SNAP for U Study: Using a formative approach to inform a SNAP intervention targeting Midwestern college students. Oral presentation at the American Society of Nutrition. Boston, MA, July 2023.   
  4. Rodman, C., Gremaud, A., Salgado, G., Cullers, A., Chrisman, M., Gardiner, K. Expanding efforts to increase equitable SNAP utilization to college students. Poster presented at the National Health Outreach & Engagement Conference, National Extension Foundation, Ithica, NY, May, 2023.   
  5. Cullers, A, Chrisman, M, Rodman, C, Gremaud, A, Gardiner, K. Food insecurity and SNAP knowledge in Missouri college students. Poster presented at 2023 Missouri Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics annual conference, Blue Springs, MO March, 2023.   
  6. Rodman, C., Gremaud, A., Salgado, G., Cullers, A., Chrisman, M., Gardiner, K. Food Insecurity and SNAP Awareness in Missouri College Students. Virtual poster presented at the annual Missouri Extension & Engagement Week, Columbia, MO, October, 2022.   
  7. Cullers, A., Chrisman, M., Rodman, C., Gremaud, A., Food Insecurity and SNAP Awareness in Missouri College Students. Poster presentation at the annual Food and Nutrition Conference and Expo, Orlando, FL October, 2022.
  1. Rodman, C., Chrisman, M., Gremaud, A., Gardiner, K., Cullers, A., Weber, E., Missouri Council for Activity and Nutrition (Producer). (2023). Food insecurity and SNAP among college students in Missouri [webinar].
  2. Rodman, C., Cullers, A., Chrisman, M., Gremaud, A., Gardiner, K. A discussion of college food insecurity. Invited online oral presentation to quarterly Interdisciplinary Center for Food Security meeting hosted by University of Missouri Food Security, March, 2023.
  1. Chrisman, M., Cullers, A., Rodman, C., Gremaud, A., Salgado, G., Gardiner, K. SNAP for U: Food insecurity and SNAP use among higher education students, including differences by institution typ. Journal of Agriculture, Food Systems, and Community Development. (accepted, awaiting publication) 
  2. Chrisman, M., Gardiner, K., Cullers, A., Gremaud, A., Rodman, C. It’s part of the college experience: A qualitative focus group assessment of college students’ food insecurity in the Midwest. (under review)
  3. Gardiner, K., Chrisman, M., Cullers, A., Gremaud, A., Rodman, C. "College administrators’ and Missouri state nutrition program associates’ knowledge of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program: A qualitative exploration" manuscript number: JN-2024-0092. The Journal of Nutrition. (under review)
  • Missouri Foundation for Health Opportunity Fund (2022 – 2023)
  • Fahs-Beck Fund of New York Community Trust (2021-2022)
  • Nominee: Missouri Rural Health Champion Award, Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services. 2023.