This bill is sponsored by Andres X. Vargas and Mindy Domb
College hunger was a problem before the pandemic. According to the most recent data, 37% of public university students in Massachusetts experience food insecurity. The pandemic has made it possible for college students to qualify for temporary relief, such as expanded SNAP eligibility, but institutional challenges to accessing resources remain.
The Hunger Free-Campus Coalition and bill sponsors Sen. Harriette Chandler, Rep. Andy Vargas and Rep. Mindy Domb have introduced a bill titled: An Act Establishing the Massachusetts Hunger-Free Campus Initiative (H.1368/S.822) which would provide capacity, guidance, and funding to public colleges and not-for-profit institutions of higher education take steps to alleviate food insecurity on campus. The Department of Higher Education will establish the Hunger-Free Campus Initiative, which will be available to all public higher education institutions.
As part of a package using federal American Rescue Plan Act funding, the legislature committed to $3.7 million toward providing Hunger-Free Campus grants, but legislation is still necessary to create the support needed to successfully implement this initiative.
This bill would encourage colleges to become a Hunger-Free Campus by:
Designating a college staff person as a point of contact.
Establishing a hunger-free campus taskforce
Notifying students that receive need-based financial aid of their potential eligibility for federal nutrition assistance such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)
Hosting/participating in at least one hunger awareness event annually.
Assessing the need for on-campus food distribution, access to an off-site food pantry, or the establishment of an on-campus food pantry.
When the formal legislative session adjourned at the end of July, the language of this bill was attached to the Senate version of a major economic development and tax relief bill. Unfortunately, that bill is still in conference committee.
Legislators may return to working on this larger legislation during informal session or during a special session. If they do, Project Bread hopes An Act Establishing the Massachusetts Hunger-Free Campus Initiative will be included in the final bill.