WASHINGTON – Congresswoman Jahana Hayes (CT-05) recently introduced the Closing the College Hunger Gap Act, legislation to direct the U.S. Secretary of Education to notify college students of their eligibility for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) based on information reported through the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form.

“Nearly 40 million people in the United States rely on SNAP. Despite widespread participation, too often eligible individuals, including college students, are unaware of the program or how SNAP can improve access to nutritious foods. Ensuring students are informed of their eligibility is a first step in addressing food insecurity on college campuses. Whether in kindergarten or pursuing a degree, students cannot learn on an empty stomach,” said Congresswoman Jahana Hayes.

A student survey at the University of Connecticut (UConn) found across each of its campuses, 38% of students faced food insecurity, and about 30% of students reported skipping meals to save money. Nationally, 23% of undergraduates and 12% of graduate students experience food insecurity.

Unfortunately, there are other barriers blocking access to SNAP for college students – including requirements for enrollment in work-study or working at least 20 hours a week in paid employment. Reportedly in 2020, over 70% of part-time undergraduate students and 40% of full-time students worked while in college. It is essential students in the workforce are aware of SNAP benefits that can be used for food assistance.

“Hunger among college students remains a pervasive problem, as evidenced by the hundreds of pantries that have sprung up on college campuses in recent years, but these pantries alone cannot provide meaningful stability and food security for students,” said Abby J. Leibman, President & CEO of MAZON: A Jewish Response to Hunger. “We know that a shocking one in three college students faces hunger, and that federal safety net programs like SNAP (formerly food stamps) provide the most effective and efficient tools to address this problem. Along with our ‘Challah for Hunger’ student leaders around the country, MAZON is proud to support the Closing the College Hunger Gap Act. We are grateful to Congresswoman Hayes for her leadership in helping connect more students to SNAP, because the last thing college students should worry about is if they will have enough food to eat.”

“We’re so grateful to Congresswoman Hayes for prioritizing this issue at the national level through the Closing the College Hunger Gap Act. It is essential that we work together to address hunger and food insecurity among our neighbors pursuing higher education. Connecticut Foodshare has worked to expand our partnerships on college campuses across the state, including the UConn Waterbury campus which has seen the highest participation rates of any UConn campus pantry,” said Connecticut Foodshare President and CEO Jason Jakubowski

“We are proud to endorse the Closing the College Hunger Gap Act, which increases access to SNAP eligibility information for students, making it easier for them to navigate the program. Studies show that college students, already under the many stressors of trying to better themselves with higher education, experience food and nutrition insecurity at alarming rates. This legislation would greatly reduce access barriers faced by college students who are struggling to make ends meet.” Julieth Callejas, Executive Director, End Hunger CT!

Read the full text of the bill here.