On October 7th, the Joint Committee on Higher Education held a hearing during which they heard testimony on one of Project Bread’s 2020-2021 legislative priorities: An Act Establishing the Massachusetts Hunger-Free Campus Initiative (H.1368/S.822). This act would serve as an important first step in addressing college student hunger and food insecurity.
College students frequently experience food insecurity at higher levels than the general population. In Massachusetts, 37% of public university students face food insecurity. These numbers are even higher among students who experience systemic discrimination with 52% of Black public university students, 47% of Latino public university students, and 46% of LGBTQ+ public university students facing food insecurity. College students who are facing food insecurity are less likely to complete their degree, less likely to receive an advanced degree, and more likely to have a lower grade point average than their food secure peers.
Because Project Bread works closely with students and their families who are facing hunger and food insecurity, we understand the necessity of legislation to address this issue. An Act Establishing the Massachusetts Hunger-Free Campus Initiative is an important step on this path. This legislation would:
You can take action to establish the Hunger-Free Campus Initiative in Massachusetts. Ask your legislators to support (H.1368/S.822), which would provide capacity, guidance, and funding to public colleges and not-for-profit institutions of higher education to alleviate food insecurity on their campuses.
Project Bread’s FoodSource Hotline screens callers for SNAP eligibility and provides callers across Massachusetts with information and referrals to community food resources. This program is supported through funding from the Legislature, and we are grateful for this support. The following are two stories that demonstrate the importance of passing this bill for college students who are experiencing food insecurity.
Kelly from Pelham is enrolled as a full-time student and called us to receive more information about food assistance. Kelly lost her job but is not eligible for unemployment. Because she does not meet any of the criteria for SNAP benefits, she also does not receive any federal assistance. While we were able to provide her with information about food pantries in her area, Kelly is now forced to attend school while facing food insecurity and possible eviction, meaning there is no possible way for her to fully participate in her studies.
Another student, Sam, is a full-time student at UMass Amherst. He has recently fallen on hard times and is struggling to keep up with school, working a part-time job, and taking care of his mother who has recently been diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy and cannot afford a full-time PCA. Sam called to inquire about food pantries in his area, and we were able to tell him about the SNAP program and help him fill out an online application.
These are just some of the people who have suffered unnecessarily from college food insecurity. These stories and stories like theirs demonstrate the need to develop an initiative that works to help college students struggling with food security. Passing An Act Establishing the Massachusetts Hunger-Free Campus Initiative is an important step in identifying and addressing these challenges through capacity building and the provision of resources.