The Castle Group
The Food Bank of Western Massachusetts
413.247.9738 ext. 124
LEGISLATION FILED BY HUNGER-FREE CAMPUS COALITION
“An Act establishing the Massachusetts Hunger-Free Campus Initiative” Aims to Address Rate of Food Insecurity Among Public College Students in Massachusetts
(February 18, 2021) Boston, MA: Thirty-seven percent of public university students in Massachusetts experience food insecurity according to a recent report by the Hope Center for College, Community and Justice and the MA Department of Higher Education. This stark reality, combined with the opportunity at the federal and state level to tackle food access as a basic need on campus, led to the filing of comprehensive and visionary legislation titled “An Act establishing the Massachusetts Hunger-Free Campus Initiative.”
The bill sponsors include Senator Harriette Chandler (D-Worcester), Representative Mindy Domb (D-Amherst) and Representative Andy Vargas (D-Haverhill). This critical legislation aims to provide capacity, guidance, and funding to allow 2- and 4-year public colleges and not-for profit institutions of higher education that serve a significant proportion of low-income students to take several steps in alleviating hunger and food insecurity on campus. The effort is supported by the statewide Hunger-Free Campus Coalition, which formed in the Fall of 2019 to address food insecurity among high-need populations enrolled in MA public colleges and universities.
“Access to food is a fundamental survival need and all students deserve a hunger free campus. Unfortunately, food insecurity and hunger are daily struggles for some Massachusetts college students, many of whom are already saddled by loan debt and the stress of schoolwork,” said Senator Harriette Chandler. “This bill seeks to empower students and colleges to address food insecurity together and to chart a path towards hunger free campuses statewide.”
“Burdened by student debt, college students often work more than one job while attending school to help meet their expenses, and still have to make painful decisions between paying for dinner or buying textbooks. This legislation partners with campus communities to build their capacity to address student hunger with meaningful and effective interventions. I’m proud to join my colleagues to offer a mechanism to support campuses to engage in this crucial work,” said Representative Mindy Domb.
“Food insecurity is a solvable problem. The pandemic has further exacerbated hunger, especially for college students already struggling to get by. In a state where our cost of living is so high and navigating support can be complicated, solving food insecurity will require a systems approach that builds capacity, efficiency and meets people where they’re at,” said Representative Andy Vargas. “At the end of the day, college students can’t learn or take advantage of professional opportunities while on an empty stomach. We can fix this.”
The bill includes steps such as establishing a hunger-free campus taskforce comprised of both students and administration staff, notifying students of their potential eligibility for federal and state nutrition benefits, developing a student meal credit sharing program, creating an emergency fund to support students in crisis, providing capacity-building funds for campuses to implement these best practices, and more.
“We are grateful to our legislators for making this issue a priority during this unprecedented public and economic crisis. We are proud to work with them, as well as the public, to be aware of this problem on campuses,” said Catherine D’Amato, president and CEO, The Greater Boston Food Bank. “Together with anti-hunger organizations, advocates, schools, and most importantly, students with lived experience, we will work to enact specific policies and guidelines proven to alleviate food insecurity on college campuses. This is an issue that disproportionately affects marginalized communities – Our students need solutions.”
“Our SNAP outreach team’s work at area colleges has shown that many students not only struggle with food insecurity; they are unaware of their potential eligibility for SNAP and other resources. Students should be able to focus on their studies, not worry about where their next meal is coming from. The Food Bank of Western Massachusetts is excited to support this legislation that will help students to stay in school and successfully work toward their chosen careers,” said Andrew Morehouse, Executive Director, The Food Bank of Western Massachusetts.
The Massachusetts public higher education system serves over 250,000 students annually. Due to historic and contemporary divestment and discrimination, Black, Latinx, and LGBTQ+ students disproportionately experience food insecurity – at rates of 52%, 47%, and 46% respectively. Student parents also experience higher rates of food insecurity at 53%. This initiative prioritizes equity and ensures that all students, particularly these groups who are traditionally underserved, have access to food.
“It’s difficult to learn when you have been at work and school all day but not have had means to eat. Hunger, like homework and paying tuition, is a reality for college students. This legislation acknowledges that food insecure high school students do not stop being food insecure upon entering college. It provides guidelines and resources to tackle this issue. As hunger advocates in central Massachusetts where lack of transportation makes things more difficult, we’re excited to support this legislation that will help students focus on school and successfully complete their education,” said Gina Plata-Nino, Central West Justice Center.
To learn more about this bill, read the fact sheet.
About the Massachusetts Hunger-Free Campus Coalition
The Massachusetts Hunger-Free Campus Coalition was formed in the fall of 2019 to address food insecurity among high-need populations enrolled in MA public colleges and universities.
Collectively, the coalition is working to leverage and expand existing resources and services including maximizing student enrollment in federal nutrition programs such as SNAP, supporting meal swipe options with campus food vendors, ensuring that campuses work with MA food banks to expand food pantries, and other initiatives designed to address food insecurity among the student population.
Current members include The Greater Boston Food Bank, The Food Bank of Western Massachusetts, Mass Law Reform Institute (MLRI), Worcester County Food Bank, Central West Justice Center, One Family, Project Bread, Boston Office of Food Access, Bunker Hill Community College, The Open Door of Gloucester, uAspire, Worcester State University, Holyoke Community College, Springfield College, Bristol Community College, University of Massachusetts – Amherst, Salem State University, Roxbury Community College, UMass Extension Nutrition Education Program, North Shore Community College, and The Amherst Survival Center.
Our goal is to ensure equity and incorporate student voices as we work to make Massachusetts college campuses hunger free.