Bonamici, Takano Introduce Bill to Help Food Insecure College Students Access SNAP Benefits
WASHINGTON, DC [5/24/21] – Today Representatives Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR) and Mark Takano (D-CA) introduced legislation to help students experiencing food insecurity access benefits from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).
The Opportunity to Address College Hunger Act, H.R. 3362, will bridge an information gap and help students access the benefits available to them by requiring institutions of higher education to inform students in the Federal Work Study (FWS) program that they may qualify for SNAP and provide support for the application process. According to recent survey data from the Hope Center for College, Community, and Justice, food insecurity affects 39 percent of students at two-year institutions and 29 percent of students at four-year institutions.
“I’ve spoken with college students who have left school because of homelessness and hunger, and who have struggled to put food on the table for themselves and their siblings while attending class full time,” said Congresswoman Suzanne Bonamici. “SNAP can be a lifeline for students who are experiencing food insecurity, but many do not know they qualify. The Opportunity to Address College Hunger Act will make it easier for students to obtain the nutritious meals they need to succeed in school and life.”
"Students across the country experience food insecurity and face extreme hunger, often not knowing where their next meal will come from. Sadly, this crisis has only been exacerbated by the financial strains caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Students should only be focused on getting an education, which is why I'm proud to once again partner with Rep. Bonamici to introduce the Opportunity to Address College Hunger Act," said Rep. Mark Takano. "Removing this barrier to access nutrition assistance programs will help them on their academic journeys."
Bonamici and Takano introduced the legislation in response to concerns they heard from community colleges and universities about students struggling with food and housing insecurity. 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.
The Government Accountability Office has recommended USDA Food and Nutrition Service improve its SNAP eligibility information for students and share best practices for notifying students of their potential eligibility. The legislation is endorsed by Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, Bread for the World, Feeding America, Hope Center for College, Community, and Justice, Institute for Higher Education Policy, MAZON: A Jewish Response to Hunger, National Education Association, and Oregon Food Bank.
“While we have seen many short-term responses to food insecurity among college students — like the hundreds of pantries that have sprung up on college campuses in recent years — these are short-term, stop-gap measures at best,” said Abby J. Leibman, President & CEO of MAZON: A Jewish Response to Hunger. “We know from our experience that federal nutrition assistance programs like SNAP (formerly food stamps) remain the most effective and efficient response to this problem, which has gotten worse during the COVID-19 crisis. We strongly support Rep. Bonamici’s bill to ensure students who can qualify for SNAP will be notified by their respective campuses, because the last thing college students should worry about is if they will have enough food to eat.”
The legislation is co-sponsored by Juan Vargas (CA), Kathy Castor (FL), Teres Leger Fernandez (NM), David Trone, Sara Jacobs (CA), Jerry Nadler (NY), Nikema Williams (GA), and Gerald E. Connolly (VA).