Thirty-seven percent of public university students in Massachusetts are food insecure. Because of historic and contemporary divestment and discrimination, Black, Latinx, and LGBTQ+ students, and student-parents disproportionately experience food insecurity – at rates of 52%, 47%, 46%, and 53%, respectively. In recent months, the high costs of food, gas and other utilities caused by inflation is further choking the budgets of those who are struggling most. Investments in basic nutrition security has never been more essential to student success. However, many colleges and universities across the state do not have the capacity or resources to adequately address food insecurity on their campuses.
The Massachusetts Hunger-Free Campus Coalition (HFCC), co-led by The Greater Boston Food Bank, was formed in the fall of 2019 to address food insecurity among high-need populations enrolled in Massachusetts public colleges and universities. Collectively, the coalition works to leverage and expand existing resources and services including maximizing student enrollment in federal nutrition programs such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), supporting meal swipe options with campus food vendors, ensuring that campuses work with Massachusetts food banks to expand food pantries, and other initiatives designed to address food insecurity among the student population.
“College student hunger was a problem before the pandemic, and it will continue to be an issue unless systemic changes are made.”
Currently, the HFCC is advocating for the swift passage of bill S.2811/H.4697, An Act Establishing the Massachusetts Hunger-Free Campus Initiative. The bill, sponsored by Senators Chandler (D-Worcester) and Lovely (D-Salem) and Representatives Vargas (D-Haverhill), Domb (D-Amherst), and Meschino (D-Hull), will provide a roadmap on how to use targeted resources to public colleges and universities that disproportionately serve low-income students to enable them to expand anti-hunger initiatives on their campuses.
Act now to help us pass this bill by contacting MA Ways and Means Committee.
This legislation merits passage not just for students and their families, but for the health and prosperity of the next generation of Massachusetts workers. Massachusetts is facing a labor shortage crisis: enrollment data from 2019 and 2020 shows a 33% decrease in students enrolling in state universities and community colleges, and the early childhood education and mental healthcare workforces are experiencing staffing challenges across the state. The Massachusetts labor force is projected to lose a whopping 30% more of its college-educated workers in the 2020s than it did in the 2010s. To ensure that these critical workforce sectors can operate at capacity, we need to remove obstacles that students face on the path to completing their education and end hunger on campus.
College student hunger was a problem before the pandemic, and it will continue to be an issue unless systemic changes are made. With coordination and targeted resources, Massachusetts colleges and universities can help students complete college by expanding anti-hunger initiatives on their campuses and fuel the future workforce of Massachusetts.