Bonamici, Takano Champion Effort to Connect Food Insecure College Students with SNAP Benefits
WASHINGTON, DC [10/17/19] – Congresswoman Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR) and Congressman Mark Takano (D-CA) introduced legislation to help college students who experience food insecurity.
The Opportunity to Address College Hunger Act, H.R. 4637, will connect students with existing nutrition resources by requiring institutions to notify students who participate in the Federal Work Study (FWS) program of their potential eligibility for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).
“It’s extremely difficult for students to focus on their education when they are hungry or worrying about where to find their next meal,” said Congresswoman Suzanne Bonamici, Chair of the Education and Labor Subcommittee on Civil Rights and Human Services. “The Opportunity to Address College Hunger Act will help more students access existing federal resources that they may already qualify for, but may not know about. It will also streamline the process for students who choose to apply for SNAP. I am pleased to partner with Congressman Takano in this effort to support students who are working hard to earn a better future for themselves and their families.”
“Students shouldn’t have to skip meals and rely on campus food pantries in order to be able to afford to stay in school. Addressing widespread food insecurity among college students and removing barriers to access nutrition assistance programs must be a priority to ensure student success,” said Rep. Mark Takano. “By providing college students with information about their potential eligibility for SNAP, they will have the support they need to help put food on their table and focus on their academics. Lack of access to basic needs is a barrier to graduation that Congress must help remove to ensure students who are struggling to afford more than just tuition are equipped for success. Thank you to Rep. Bonamici for being a great partner on this legislation.”
Under the Opportunity to Address College Hunger Act, colleges will provide students with details about how they can obtain more information about SNAP, confirm their eligibility for the program, and access benefits. Institutions will also provide those who qualify for the program with official documentation of their eligibility, overcoming a common hurdle students face when applying for SNAP benefits.
The full text of the legislation can be found here.
Bonamici and Takano, members of the Education and Labor Committee, drafted the legislation in response to meetings with local institutions of higher education. During these meetings, the colleges raised concerns about students who struggle with food insecurity.
"The Opportunity to Address College Hunger Act ensures students understand the federal resources that can help them through college,” said Kate Kinder, Career Pathways Skills Training Director at Portland Community College. “This act is an important step forward for students who battle hunger and rising costs every day."
“University students across the country face extreme hunger and it has a devastating impact on their success in college,” said Dr. Marisa Zapata, Director of Portland State University’s Homelessness Research and Action Collaborative. “This potential barrier is particularly acute for students of color and first generation students who report even higher rates of hunger. PSU is already making strides to connect students to these resources, and this legislation will further expand that to students across the country.”
Bonamici is also leading the Opportunities for Success Act, which will increase funding for FWS and revise the distribution formula to allocate funds based on student need and Pell Grant aid. It is included as a provision in the College Affordability Act, which was introduced this week as a comprehensive update of the Higher Education Act.