Advocates seek to ease hunger among college students
BOSTON — More than a third of the state’s public college students are struggling with food insecurity, according to advocates who are prodding lawmakers to approve a plan to help ease hunger at community colleges and universities.
A pair of proposals pending before the House and Senate would provide grants to public colleges and other institutions of higher education that serve a significant proportion of low-income students to help them alleviate hunger on campus.
On Wednesday, advocates and lawmaker who support the plan held a live-streamed briefing on the proposal and called for its passage before the end of the session.
“No student can learn when they’re hungry, we know that,” Sen. Joan Lovely, D-Salem, a primary sponsor of the Senate version of the bill, said during the briefing. “We must support students outside the classroom so they’re ready to tackle the challenges inside the classroom ... so they can go on and have fulfilling lives.”
Lovely said the statewide initiative would be modeled on a program at North Shore Community College that offers meal vouchers and a mobile food market. If approved, it could immediately tap into $2.7 million earmarked for a pilot college anti-hunger program included in a $4 billion spending bill approved in December.
The money comes from the state’s share of American Rescue Plan Act money and surplus revenue that piled up amid better-than-expected tax collections.
Another supporter, Rep. Andy Vargas, D-Haverhill, said food insecurity is a critical issue for many public college and university students from his district. He said the rising cost of food and other necessities amid record-high inflation is putting the squeeze on students’ budgets.
“If we’re going to have a robust economic recovery, we need to ensure that everybody has access to food,” Vargas said. “We need to make sure that we’re addressing the food continuum, and that includes ensuring that no student on any campus goes hungry.”
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