Senator Warren and Representative Lawson Introduce the College Student Hunger Act of 2019 to Address Hunger on College Campuses
Originally published on Warren.Senate.Gov.
More than 30% of college students might face food insecurity, and almost 2 million at-risk students did not receive SNAP benefits in 2016, even though they were eligible; Legislation would ensure support to food-insecure students and remove barriers to low-income college students accessing SNAP benefits by expanding the eligibility criteria.
In February 2017, Senator Warren led a letter with Senators Markey, Patty Murray (D-Wash.), and Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) to the Government Accountability Office (GAO) requesting a study on food insecurity at colleges and universities.
In January 2019, Senator Warren and her colleagues released the GAO’s report, revealing that more than 30% of college students may face food insecurity. Moreover, while SNAP is the main federal program to address food insecurity for low-income Americans, the report found that almost 2 million at-risk students who are potentially eligible for SNAP did not receive benefits in 2016.
“As more and more students struggle to afford college and take on a mountain of student loan debt, nearly one-in-three college students cannot even afford basic necessities like food,” Senator Warren said. “Our bill will ensure students have the support they need to work toward a better future without going hungry.”
“Food insecurity is a real concern for many college students across our nation,” said Representative Lawson. “The significant increase in college tuition over the last decade has forced students to make a choice between buying food or paying for books and housing expenditures. This bill will help to relieve some of that financial burden for them. I am proud to work with Sen. Warren to introduce this critical piece of legislation.”
“We have the food, the resources, and the infrastructure to end hunger in America – but what we lack is the political willpower,” said Representative McGovern. “Too often, we stereotype what hunger and food insecurity looks like and stigmatize those who use anti-hunger programs, but the reality is that nearly 40 million Americans experience hunger, and there isn’t a community or a college campus in this country that is hunger-free. That’s why I am proud to join Senator Warren and Representative Lawson in introducing this important plan to help make sure that college students can focus on learning, and not on where their next meal will come from.”
The College Student Hunger Act will address student hunger by increasing low-income college students’ ability to access SNAP, testing new ways SNAP can be administered on college campuses, and increasing awareness about student eligibility for SNAP. Specifically, the bill:
- Increases low-income college students’ ability to receive SNAP: Expands the list of criteria that permits low-income college students to apply for SNAP by allowing Pell Grant-eligible students and independent students (e.g., who are in foster care, who are veterans, or who are homeless) to apply for benefits. The bill also lowers SNAP’s 20 hours per-week work requirement for college students to 10 hours.
- Increases outreach to eligible students: Requires the Department of Education to notify low-income students who are eligible for a Pell Grant that they may be eligible for SNAP, and to refer them to states’ SNAP application websites.
- Creates a SNAP student hunger pilot program: Requires the Departments of Agriculture and Education to run demonstration pilot projects to test ways to make SNAP more useful to college students, such as allowing students to use SNAP to purchase prepared food from dining halls or allowing students to apply the cash value of their benefit to directly offset the cost of a student meal plan.
- Increases awareness of student eligibility for SNAP: Implements the GAO’s recommendations by requiring the Department of Agriculture to increase awareness among states and colleges about student hunger, student eligibility for SNAP, and how states and colleges can help eligible students access and use their SNAP benefits. Requires the Department of Agriculture’s Inspector General to audit the agency’s outreach practices to make colleges and universities more aware of student eligibility for SNAP.
“All across my district and throughout the Commonwealth, there are students at our institutions of higher learning who face food insecurity as a reality of their day-to-day lives, both in and outside the classroom, putting their academic success at risk. As a State Senator representing some of Massachusetts’s most high-need communities, I have heard from countless students who struggle to get by and are unsure of where their next meal will come from. I am proud of the ongoing work we are doing here on the state level to remove barriers to nutritional assistance, and I know Senator Warren’s legislation would be instrumental in helping to ensure that our students have access to the nutrition they need. Our Senator has been a tireless advocate for college students for many years, and she is once again advocating for them by fighting to close the SNAP Gap on our college campuses and beyond. We are very fortunate to have her as our partner on this issue, and I applaud her commitment to fighting food insecurity for our nation’s most vulnerable residents.” – MA Senate Assistant Majority Leader Sal DiDomenico
“As a former teacher, I know that a student who is hungry is a student that is not concentrating on their studies. I appreciate Senator Warren’s leadership and her work to combat food insecurity. Many college students, especially the non-traditional student who may also have a family, will be greatly helped by this legislation.” – MA State Senator Anne Gobi, Senate Chair of the Joint Committee on Higher Education and Senate Chair of the Joint Committee on Environment, Natural Resources and Agriculture
“The fifteen Massachusetts Community Colleges strongly support the College Student Hunger Act of 2019. Hunger is not just a poverty issue – it’s also a student success issue. Thank you to Senator Warren and Representative Lawson for their leadership to expand SNAP eligibility and remove barriers for low-income students who are too hungry to learn.” – Tom Sannicandro, Director of the Massachusetts Association of Community Colleges
“Project Bread is committed to preventing and ending hunger in Massachusetts, and in recent years, our work has included assisting college students who, while in pursuit of higher education, have experienced hunger. In serving these students, most of whom are currently ineligible for SNAP (food stamps), we recognize that broadening the eligibility requirements of this program is the only way to ensure all students can stay focused on their education. We applaud our Massachusetts Senator, Elizabeth Warren, as well as Congressman Al Lawson, for prioritizing hunger, and we encourage college students in Massachusetts to call our FoodSource Hotline (1-800-645-8333) for assistance accessing food, including with screening and application assistance for SNAP.”– Erin McAleer, President, Project Bread
“We can no longer ignore the growing crisis of food insecurity in the Commonwealth or the nation, especially among the growing body of non-traditional students. Our investments in higher education are eviscerated if students are unable to learn due to hunger and/or homelessness. Mass Law Reform and our poverty law colleagues heartily applaud Senators Warren and Markey for both pursuing the GAO report and filing this critical legislation to ensure core federal nutrition benefits reach students in need.” – Pat Baker, Senior Policy Analyst, MA Law Reform Institute