WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), a member of the U.S. Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee, and U.S. Representative Jahana Hayes (CT-5), a member of the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Education and Labor, on Thursday introduced the Closing the College Hunger Gap Act, which would help collect data on food and housing insecurity on college campuses and connect eligible students with resources like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) to combat food insecurity. U.S. Representative Marcia Fudge (OH-11), Chair of the U.S. House Agriculture Subcommittee on Nutrition, Oversight, and Department Operations joined Hayes as an original cosponsor of the House bill. U.S. Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) and Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) joined Murphy as an original cosponsor of the Senate bill.
“Far too many students are forced to make the unfair decision on whether to eat or get an education,” said Murphy. “Our bill creates a uniform standard for the Department of Education to collect data on students who are experiencing food and housing insecurity, and connect them with the resources they’re eligible for so we can tackle this crisis. Good nutrition is directly correlated to performance and college completion and we need to figure out how we can help students achieve both.”
“No student should ever have to worry about finding the money to put the next meal on the table while in class. Hungry students don’t learn. I have seen this firsthand,” said Hayes. “This bill takes meaningful steps to alleviate college hunger and raise student awareness about existing supports.”
It’s estimated that 30% of college students are food insecure, which creates a significant barrier to college completion. Students who experience food insecurity report that hunger harms their academic performance, including missing classes and study sessions, opting out of extracurricular activities, forgoing textbooks, or dropping a class. Since there are no uniform statistics, it’s hard for the federal government to understand the scope of the problem. This bill mandates that the U.S. Department of Education collect data of food and housing insecurity to better address student needs and to connect eligible students with existing resources to combat food insecurity.
In January 2019, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) released the government’s first report measuring college food insecurity. According to their review of a plurality of studies, at least 30 percent of college students are food insecure. Following this report, Murphy and Hayes held a series of separate roundtables across Connecticut college campuses to speak directly with students on how food and housing insecurity directly impacts their college performance and completion possibilities. Following these roundtables, Murphy released the Hidden Cost of College: Address Food and Housing Insecurity, a report detailing the problems students have reporter dealing with food and/or housing insecurity and how these challenges impact their ability to succeed in school. The report also outlines steps the federal government can take to address the growing crisis.