(TRENTON) – Taking action to address food insecurity on college campuses, legislation to require the New Jersey Department of Human Services (DHS) to create an outreach plan for college students to raise awareness for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) was approved Thursday by the full Assembly, 72-3-3.
“An alarming number of college students are struggling with food insecurity,” said Assemblywoman Joann Downey (D-Monmouth), chair of the Assembly Human Services Committee and prime sponsor of the bill. “A staggering 48 percent of students at two-year colleges and 41 percent at four-year institutions reported experiencing food insecurity in the past 30 days in a 2019 study. It’s heartbreaking to think that so many students aren’t sure where their next meal will come from. Raising awareness for SNAP will help more students have access to healthy foods and reduce hunger on campuses.”
Under the measure (A-1003), DHS, in conjunction with the New Jersey Secretary of Higher Education, would increase outreach efforts to students on SNAP, including compiling and distributing information on eligibility, benefits and application procedures. The bill is sponsored by Downey (D-Monmouth), Benjie Wimberly (D-Bergen, Passaic) and Valerie Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen).
“Every day, SNAP helps lift people out of poverty and boosts their overall health and well-being. However, students in need cannot take advantage of the program if they don’t know it’s there,” said Wimberly. “The first step to combating hunger on college campuses is to raise awareness of vital resources like SNAP.”
“Food insecurity impacts people of all ages, genders, races and creeds. Unfortunately, college students are no exception,” said Vainieri Huttle. “Students who are food insecure are more likely to fail exams, withdraw from classes or miss out on professional development opportunities. No student should ever go hungry, especially to the point that it affects their academic success. We must do all we can to connect students with SNAP resources that can help them build a healthy future.”
Additionally under the bill, SNAP information would be distributed to students in a manner that aligns with services and programs whose participants are likely to qualify for SNAP, including financial aid, work-study programs, employment or training programs for low-income households, and services targeted to students with disabilities, employed students or nontraditional students.
The measure now heads to the Senate for further consideration.