Last week, Congressman Adam Schiff (D-Calif., 30th District) proposed legislation that would help community college students with food insecurity. The Community College League of California’s leadership supports this bill and its recognition of students’ basic needs.
The Food for Thought Act will create programs that provide free meals for students in need, provide funding to conduct campus outreach. It will also serve as a resource for information to participating students on eligibility for federal food assistance programs like SNAP, and collect data on food insecurity on campuses to expand anti-hunger programming. Funding from the grant can also be used to update much-needed food infrastructure on campus that students can use and build food pantries and community gardens on campus.
“When I hear of a student’s struggle with food insecurity, I think about how much courage it took for them to share that they are hungry. I also think about the many students who do not voice their lack of basic needs. Given this, California’s community college trustees widely support programs that provide a direct way to impact students’ lives and futures. While free meal programs like this are in place for students in our K-12 schools, many college-aged students are suddenly faced with the choice of continuing their education or caring for their livelihood,” said Andra Hoffman, President of the CCCT Board for the Community College League of California and Trustee for the Los Angeles Community College District.
According to the Affordability, Food, and Housing Task Force’s publication “Addressing Food Insecurity,” nearly 40 percent of undergraduates qualify as low-income, exacerbating the issue of food insecurity for almost 20 million college students. State funding for higher education has decreased by 25 percent per student over the last 30 years, and states have cut $9 billion from higher education in the last 10 years alone. In public universities, budget cuts have led to significant reductions in student services.
“Above all, community college leaders are committed to helping our students thrive as whole individuals. When a student comes to class but hasn’t had enough to eat or is exhausted because they are working too many hours just to afford their basic needs, they are not ready to grow their minds. These barriers affect many of our students, but particularly those in groups that are already facing other socioeconomic challenges,” said Julianna M. Barnes, Ed.D., Chair of the League Board of Directors, President of the CEOCCC Board for the Community College League of California, and Chancellor of South Orange County Community College District. “Legislation like Congressman Schiff’s Food for Thought Act is what we need to have to support the whole student. It is also what our communities need to ensure that we are providing education with equity.”
Currently, over 100 California community colleges have food pantries and 55 colleges host basic needs centers. Students can also apply for SNAP benefits, but this bill would provide further much-needed assistance.
Elected officials and organizations nationwide support this legislation, including the University of California System, Association of Independent California Colleges and Universities, California State University, Los Angeles Community College District, Pasadena City College, Southern California College Attainment Network, Tony Cárdenas (D-Calif.), Jared Huffman (D-Calif.), Mark DeSaulnier (D-Calif.), Linda Sánchez (D-Calif.), Jimmy Panetta (D-Calif.), and Katie Porter (D-Calif.).
“When this legislation was first introduced, I steadfastly promoted it and do so today since it reflects what our students need,” said Trustee Hoffman. “Congressional member Schiff’s continued press for this legislation is crucial to helping our students and their families. I wholeheartedly continue to support the Food for Thought Act to ensure that community college students do not have to go hungry.”