New National Strategy on Hunger, College Food Insecurity

This past Wednesday, for the first time in over 50 years, the White House hosted a Conference on Hunger, Nutrition, and Health to spur action on addressing food insecurity across the country. As part of a new national strategy released this week by the Biden Administration, multiple action steps to specifically help address hunger among college students were announced. With nearly 37% of Minnesota community and technical college students facing food insecurity, these actions, coupled with continued action by the state and federal governments are needed to reduce the barrier of food insecurity for millions of college students. Included in the forty-page strategy on hunger were the following steps around college food insecurity:

  •  Expansion of SNAP eligibility to additional underserved populations including college students. Current pandemic eligibility rules that expanded SNAP to more low-income college students are set to expire 30 days after the federally declared COVID-19 public health emergency ends. These changes will need to be made permanent to prevent millions of students from losing access to SNAP.
  • U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Department of Education will conduct joint outreach to Pell Grant recipients and other students to inform them of their potential eligibility for SNAP.  
  • The Department of Education will be sending a Dear Colleague Letter to colleges calling on them to use American Rescue Plan funds to provide healthier food options and to support campus food pantries. The letter will also encourage colleges to work with community organizations to provide nutrition services to students.
  • It is recommended that colleges and universities should update their food contracts to ensure healthy foods are being provided in campus dining facilities.
  • The Department of Education will be conducting a survey to understand how colleges addressed food insecurity during the pandemic including how they used covid relief funds for food pantries and other food insecurity programs. The Department will then convene colleges to lift up best practices for addressing food insecurity on college campuses.

Read the full national strategy here

In addition to the new national strategy on Hunger, nearly $8 billion in investments and programs were announced by the White House. Included in these investments are two major announcements related to college hunger:

  • The national nonprofit, Benefits Data Trust, will work to improve technology access to public benefits like SNAP and publish a new toolkit in 2023 to help states and colleges identify and enroll eligible college students in programs like SNAP, Medicaid, and the new Affordable Connectivity Program. Benefits Data Trust’s toolkit will be the first in a series it develops to help eligible students enroll in public benefits.
  • The University of California announced that by 2030 that it will cut in half the percentage of students facing food insecurity from 44% to 22% among its 280,000 students. The University will work with counties to maximize SNAP enrollment and allocate additional resources to campus to address food insecurity. With the University of California setting clear goals to reduce hunger to student success, hopefully other systems like Minnesota State will follow in setting a system wide goal to address college hunger and other basic needs.

Over the past 5 years, LeadMN has been a state leader on working to address college hunger and basic needs among community and technical college students.

  • In 2019, LeadMN worked with legislators to introduce and pass the Hunger Free Campus Act for community and technical colleges. So far 19 community and technical colleges have been designated as meeting the Hunger Free Campus designation criteria.  
  • In 2021, LeadMN worked to secure $307,000 in funding from the state legislature to support the Hunger Free Campus initiative.
  • In 2021, LeadMN also worked with legislators to introduced and pass legislation that provided $1 million in state funding for basic needs. This legislation required every college and university to have a basic needs webpage and basic needs point of contact, required Minnesota State to create a centralized basic needs online resource hub, implement initiatives to raise awareness about SNAP, and utilize FAFSA data to identify students who may be eligible for SNAP and other programs that reduce basic needs insecurity.
  • In 2019, LeadMN provided funding for Minnesota community and technical colleges to participate in the Hope Center survey on college food and housing insecurity in which nearly 10,000 students responded.