A bill filed mid July would make more college students eligible for food assistance on campuses across the country.
The College Student Hunger Act of 2019, filed by Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Representative Al Lawson of Florida, would make all Pell Grant eligible students also eligible for SNAP benefits.
The purpose of the bill is to update language in the 2008 Food and Nutrition Act to address the widespread issue of food insecurity across college campuses.
Updates include reducing the work requirements for college students receiving SNAP in half from 20 hours per week to 10 hours per week and adding language to expand eligibility to independent students, such as veterans, those in foster care and homeless students.
A large part of this bill would also require federal agencies, including the Departments of Education and Agriculture, to encourage more students to sign up for SNAP if eligible after a 2016 report found that almost 2 million students eligible for food assistance didn’t apply for it.
According to a press release from Senator Warren’s office, more than 30 percent of students might face food insecurity while enrolled in college.
“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,” Warren said in a statement. “Our bill will ensure students have the support they need to work toward a better future without going hungry.”
In a statement provided to Spare Change News, Senator Edward Markey said “students cannot learn when they go hungry.”
“Having to choose between eating dinner and buying a text book for class is unacceptable,” Markey‘s statement said. “This legislation will help prevent millions of students from going hungry, allowing them to focus on succeeding in their classes and careers.”
Markey is a cosponsor of the bill as is 2020 presidential hopeful Kamala Harris, senator of California, along with Representative Jim McGovern and seven other Democratic representatives in Congress.
The 2016 report referenced in Warren’s press release was conducted by the Government Accountability Office at the request of Warren and several other members of Congress and was released early this year.
In Massachusetts 38 percent of students in the Commonwealth studying at public colleges or universities experienced food insecurity, according to a 2016 survey conducted by the Massachusetts Department of Higher Education.
The Massachusetts Association of Community Colleges is in support of the bill as is the Massachusetts Law Reform Institute, Project Bread and the Massachusetts League of Community Health Centers.
Project Bread President Erin McAleer said broadening the eligibility requirements for SNAP “is the only way to ensure all students can stay focused on their education.”
Tom Sannicandro, director of the Massachusetts Association of Community Colleges, said the plan to expand SNAP eligibility will “remove barriers for low-income students who are too hungry to learn.”
“Hunger is not just a poverty issue – it’s also a student success issue,” he said in a statement.