Higher Education Community Urges Support for Campus Hunger Bill
Published: August 02, 2019

​ACE and 33 other higher education groups wrote to Congress yesterday to express strong support for the College Student Hunger Act of 2019, an effort to remove barriers that prevent low-income students from accessing benefits under the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).

The bill, sponsored by Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Rep. Al Lawson​ Jr. (D-FL), would expand SNAP eligibility to students who qualify for Pell Grants and those with an expected family contribution of $0. For low-income students who meet food eligibility requirements by working, the bill lowers the threshold from 20 to 10 hours per week. It also amends a current rule that prohibits students with campus meal plans from receiving SNAP benefits, allowing them access to the program during the winter and summer months when meal services may not be available or when they are off campus. 

The measure includes important notification and outreach initiatives to increase student awareness of SNAP eligibility and to help students apply. 

For their part, in recent years colleges and universities have been working to address the problem through a variety of programs. 

“Hundreds of campuses have established food pantries and more than 650 campuses are now members of the College and University Food Bank Alliance (CUFBA),” the associations told Warren and Lawson in their letter. “Some campuses stock basic foods in their emergency assistance offices while others provide emergency grants to enable needy students to purchase food. Other campuses allow students to donate unused meals on their campus meal plan to fellow students through an anonymous swipe card. These and other campus initiatives to combat food insecurity are an important part of efforts to enhance student success and increase completion.”

The bill grew from a Government Accountability Office report released last December that found that more than 30 percent of college students may face food insecurity, and nearly 2 million students were eligible for SNAP but did not receive these benefits. Warren requested the report after receiving information about the issue from Pam Eddinger, president of Bunker Hill Community College in Boston, and faculty member Wick Sloa​ne​, a long-time activist on student hunger.