The Legislature has numerously recognized that investing in education is an investment in our state’s future, both short-term and long-term.
Massachusetts understands this clearly, as made apparent by The Legislature’s recent passing of permanent School Meals for All for K-12 students— because hungry students can’t learn, and the need for nutritious food doesn’t end at high school graduation.
College tuition costs often soar way beyond what most students can manage, even with assistance. That's just one of the many reasons why Project Bread so passionately affirms that strong nutrition assistance programs are a critical lifeline. They not only help individuals and families in our communities, but also empower them to pursue higher education without the fear of going hungry due to the steep costs of higher education and the rising living expenses in Massachusetts.
This month, Project Bread delivered testimony to the Joint Committee on Higher Education, urging them to favorably report An Act Establishing the Massachusetts Hunger-Free Campus Initiative.
We've all heard stories of "broke college kids" resorting to creative strategies to get by—like signing friends into class while they pick up a shift at work or trading class notes for meal swipes.
While these peer-to-peer bartering systems can be helpful in building friendships, recent research confirms that the ol’ college diet of black coffee for breakfast and ramen noodles for dinner isn't just subpar for their health; it's harmful to their future.
When we acknowledge that higher education is crucial for securing well-paying jobs, denying these students the best opportunity possible to complete their degrees is a disservice to their potential as future scholars, researchers, and leaders in our state's economy.
When we think of college students, we often picture the classic 18-year-olds with meal plans and parental support. But today, these "traditional" students make up just a quarter of college campuses.
Take a walk across any college in Massachusetts, and you’re likely to meet someone like Sam: a full-time student at UMass Amherst, juggling classes, a part-time job, and caring for his mother who was diagnosed with a condition that impacts her mobility. He reached out to Project Bread's FoodSource Hotline for help, and we guided him through the SNAP program application.
Sam's story isn't unique among "non-traditional" students, where one in five cares for dependents, and one in ten are single parents. Balancing family responsibilities while attending college is challenging, especially when you're worrying about your next meal.
A study by A Hope Center for College, Community, and Justice revealed that a third of Massachusetts public university students faced food insecurity in 2019. But for Black, Latino, and LGBTQ+ students who face systemic discrimination, half of them experienced food insecurity during the same time.
Despite some efforts, colleges still struggle to address hunger on their campuses due to limited capacity and resources. Shockingly, only 20% of food-insecure students in Massachusetts use available benefits. This could be due to a lack of awareness, accessibility issues, or the stigma associated with seeking help. Passing the Massachusetts Hunger-Free Campus Initiative is a vital step in tackling these challenges by boosting capacity and providing essential resources.
Project Bread strongly supports the Massachusetts Hunger-Free Campus Initiative. We work closely with students and their families who are experiencing hunger, and have seen firsthand the impact of hunger and food insecurity on students and their families. Here's what this legislation does:
It creates an Office of Capacity Building Services at the Massachusetts Department of Higher Education to provide funding, technical assistance, and grants for campuses addressing food insecurity.
It encourages campuses to maximize enrollment in federal nutrition programs and make the most of existing resources.
It urges campuses to form student-led food insecurity task forces to develop anti-hunger initiatives, like meal-sharing programs, emergency funds, food surveys, and on-campus SNAP EBT vendors.
We believe that this initiative is essential to ensure college students have the support they need to thrive. Massachusetts is a leader in addressing hunger, and this legislation aligns with our commitment to systemic solutions.
By helping students and families access resources, we not only benefit them, but also our entire community. It allows them to focus on their education and work instead of worrying about food. Research shows that SNAP reduces poverty and lowers healthcare costs, making this legislation a critical step in giving campuses the capacity to address food insecurity effectively.
Project Bread urges the committee to favorably report the Massachusetts Hunger-Free Campus Initiative.
It's a chance to provide every student with a fair opportunity to succeed and become future leaders in our community and beyond.
Learn More About Project Bread’s State Policy Priorities to End Hunger in Massachusetts, and how you can take action to support them.