Expand eligibility for college students to participate in SNAP in Massachusetts.

Expand eligibility for college students to participate in SNAP in Massachusetts.

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Sarah Starion started this petition to Senator Elizabeth Warren and
Fifteen community colleges and 8 universities in Massachusetts participated in the 2017 HOPE Lab survey to see the first state-level results of food and housing insecurity and homelessness among college students. The results found that 47% of respondents from community colleges and 39% of respondents from universities claimed that they could not afford to eat balanced meals. Forty-four percent of community college students and 33% of 4-year college students reported having low or very low food security during the previous 30 days. Massachusetts community college students were 2% more likely to report food insecurity compared to the national sample (44% versus 42%).

The household food insecurity rate in Massachusetts is 10.3% while the national rate is 13% . The national rate has decreased by 1.3% in the past two years while Massachusetts's rate has gone up by .9%. Massachusetts is lower than the national rate of food insecurity but has been rising at a faster rate than the national average. It's difficult for college students to be eligible for SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) benefits; it's very unlikely a college student will apply and receive these benefits.

The USDA believes there needs to be additional criteria for Massachusetts college student between the ages of 18 and 50 to be eligible for SNAP Benefits; the student must be enrolled at least half-time. For these students to be eligible they must meet any one or more of the following:
-The student is going to college as part of a DTA-approved SNAP education or training activity or another government-sponsored education and training program;
-The student works at least 20 hours a week, or the student receives a federal work-study grant and participates in a work-study program (for any amount of work-study hours);
- The student cares for a child living with them under the age of 6;
- The student cares for a child living with them under the age of 12 and the student does not have enough child care coverage to attend school and work 20 hours a week/participate in work study;
- The student is a full time student and is a single parent who cares for a child under the age of 12;
- The student or their child, is disabled and receives disability-based benefits such as Social Security or SSI, EAEDC, Veterans or MassHealth as disabled;
- Student receives a MassGrant from the Mass Department of Higher Education;
- Student receives TAFDC (Transitional Aid to Families with Dependent Children) cash benefits;
- The student has a healthcare provider verify that they are “physically or mentally unfit for employment” due to a condition which reduces their ability to support themselves;
- The student is placed in a post-secondary program through the Mass Rehabilitation Commission or a mental health or substance abuse rehabilitation program.

If a student is attending college less than half-time they do not need to meet the student rules to get SNAP benefits. If a student lives on campus and gets most of their meals through a meal plan, they do not qualify for SNAP. Most people don’t see a problem with this, but students can't access dining halls and other meal options offered by their schools during holiday breaks and school vacations. There are handfuls of students who only live on campus because their finical aid covers the cost, allowing them to attend a college away from their homes. Not all of these students have the option of going home over school vacation, meaning some of these students do not have year round access to a home or meal plan.

The Food, Conservation and Energy Act of 2008, otherwise known as the “Farm Bill,” includes a significant nutrition title that makes numerous improvements to SNAP. The College Student Hunger Act of 2017 is a bill that amends the Food and Nutrition Act of 2008 to expand the eligibility of college students to participate in SNAP. This bill would allow individuals enrolled in an institution of higher education who: (1) have an expected family contribution of zero, as determined by the procedures established the Higher Education Act of 1965; (2) students categorized as “independents” under the Higher Education Act; (3) any student who receives the maximum Pell Grant award.

Students who are orphans, in foster care, veterans of the U.S. Armed Forces, have a legal dependent other than a spouse, are unaccompanied homeless youths, or are emancipated minors, are considered to be independents.

Federal Pell Grants are the largest source of federally funded grants and are awarded solely based on financial need. This would allow a new audience of people to be eligible for SNAP. This specific option of eligibility would only be based on financial needs, which is important because students who are eligible for financial aid, are typically the students who struggle with food insecurity the most. The maximum Pell Grant award for the 2018-2019 academic year is $6,095.

The College Student Hunger Act of 2017 was introduced on September 28, 2017 and has been co-sponsored by 37 democrats. I am asking Massachusetts representative Elizabeth Warren to recognize hungry college students in need by co-signing the College Student Hunger Act of 2017.

If you believe that college students should have access to healthy, nutritious food so they can be successful in their academic work, sign my this petition.

Personal story
I come from a low-income city on the North Shore of Massachusetts, just about 16 miles outside of Boston. I went to Salem High School where school breakfast and lunch were offered for free. More than half the students couldn't afford the $2.50 a day for lunch, which made the school eligible for The Community Eligibility Provision program. For many students these meals were the only ones they would eat a day. I used to know multiple students who would come to school just to eat lunch. Providing hungry students with supplemental nutrition assistance is integral in their success.
0 have signed. Let’s get to 500!
At 500 signatures, this petition is more likely to be featured in recommendations!