January 12, 2023

Reps. Takano, Bonamici Introduce Bill to Reduce Hunger Among College Students

WASHINGTON, D.C.  – Today, Representatives Mark Takano (D-CA) and Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR) introduced legislation to help college students experiencing hunger.

The Opportunity to Address College Hunger Act would require institutions of higher education to inform students in the Federal Work Study (FWS) program that they may qualify for SNAP benefits. Institutions would also give qualifying students official documentation of their eligibility, overcoming a common hurdle students face when applying for SNAP benefits.

“Too many college students experience food insecurity and do not have the financial means to keep their fridges and pantries stocked. A student battling hunger is unable to focus attention on their studies, which is why it is imperative we help eligible students access nutrition assistance programs,” said Rep. Mark Takano. “I am proud to partner with Rep. Bonamici to reintroduce the Opportunity to Address College Hunger Act because a student’s focus should be getting a quality education, not stressing over where their next meal will come from.”

“I accessed food assistance when I was in college; without it, I would not have had enough to eat,” said Congresswoman Suzanne Bonamici. “No college student should feel stigmatized for accessing food assistance when they need help. Many students have told me about the challenges they face in putting food on the table for themselves and their families while in school. The Opportunity to Address College Hunger Act will help students overcome barriers to the SNAP program and help students get the nutritious meals they need to thrive.” 

Takano and Bonamici introduced the legislation in response to concerns they heard from community colleges and universities about students struggling with food and housing insecurity. According to survey data from the Hope Center for College, Community, and Justice, food insecurity affects about 39 percent of students at two-year institutions and about 29 percent of students at four-year institutions.

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 MAZON: A Jewish Response to Hunger, Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, Bread for the World, Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP), Hope Center for College, Community, and Justice, Institute for Higher Education Policy, The Education Trust, and Swipe Out Hunger.

“For many students, a college education from a two-year or four-year institution can significantly improve their economic opportunities,” said Vince Hall, Chief Government Relations Officer at Feeding America. “Unfortunately, a number of students face hunger, which can impede their ability to achieve their educational and professional goals. The Opportunity to Address College Hunger Act introduced by Representatives Bonamici and Takano offers a necessary and pragmatic approach to helping more eligible college students access SNAP benefits. Campus food pantries are crucial resources, but we need a multi-pronged approach to make meaningful progress in ending hunger among college students. We know that today’s students are tomorrow’s leaders. They must have all the tools for success, including access to nutritious food so they can remain focused on their education and not on where their next meal will come from.”  

“Hunger among college students remains a pervasive problem as evidenced by the hundreds of pantries that have sprung up on college campuses in recent years, but these pantries alone cannot provide meaningful stability and food security for students,” said Abby J. Leibman, President & CEO of MAZON: A Jewish Response to Hunger. “We know from our experience that SNAP (formerly food stamps) remains the most effective and efficient response to this problem. We continue to 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 Representatives Nanette Barragán (D-CA), Joyce Beatty (D-OH), Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), Salud Carbajal (D-CA), Danny Davis (D-IL), Mark DeSaulnier (D-CA), Dwight Evans (D-PA), Raúl Grijalva (D-AZ), Jahana Hayes (D-CT), Sara Jacobs (D-CA), William Keating (D-MA), Teresa Leger Fernandez (D-NM), Mike Levin (D-CA), Grace Meng (D-NY), Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC), Mary Peltola (D-AK), Mark Pocan (D-WI), Ayanna Pressley (D-MA), Mary Gay Scanlon (D-PA), Adam Smith (D-WA), Melanie Stansbury (D-NM), Dina Titus (D-NV), Jill Tokuda (D-HI), Paul Tonko (D-NY), David Trone (D-MD), and Nikema Williams (D-GA).