The coronavirus pandemic is reinvigorating hunger-free campus legislation in states including Maryland, Massachusetts and New York, where lawmakers recently proposed bills that would provide colleges with financial and administrative assistance for helping food-insecure students.
State lawmakers are becoming more aware of the needs of the diversifying student population, said Sunny Deye, director of the postsecondary education program at the National Conference of State Legislatures. Today’s students were already more likely to be working adults, first generation and low income, and to require additional support with basic needs such as food, housing and childcare, Deye said. Then came the pandemic, which caused students and their families to lose employment and income. The result is a broad swath of students who are at risk of dropping out, she said.
“There’s a recognition that the costs beyond tuition are becoming overwhelming,” Deye said. “Legislators are acknowledging the unprecedented challenges that students are facing right now, that the nontuition costs can be just as challenging. Things like hunger and housing really underscore whether or not you can persist with your education.”
California and New Jersey have both passed hunger-free campus laws within the last four years, and Deye said that the National Conference of State Legislatures is currently tracking seven pending bills related to campus hunger in five different states. Years of discussions…