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July 20, 2023

Rep. Schiff Introduces Bill to Help End Food Insecurity at Community Colleges

Schiff was joined by Senators Welch, Luján and Representative Barragán

Washington, DC —  Today, Representative Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) introduced bicameral legislation that would bring free meal programs to community college campuses and minority serving institutions (MSIs) — helping address food insecurity for students at those institutions. Schiff was joined by Representative Nanette Barragán (D-Calif.), and Senators Peter Welch (D-Vt.), and Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M.).

“Food insecurity exacerbates financial, academic, and health challenges for students – especially students of color and those from low-income families. Our legislation will make grants available for community colleges and minority serving institutions to create programs that provide free meals to students in need – so they can focus on school.” said Rep. Schiff. “No student should have to decide between getting a higher education or going hungry.”

“Low-income students face enough challenges in higher education without the added burden of wondering where their next meal is coming from,” said Sen. Welch. “The Food for Thought Act will give these students a helping hand by allowing some educational institutions to provide free meals on-campus. I’m proud to join Sen. Lujánand Reps. Schiff and Barragán in introducing this bill to give students peace of mind and keep folks from going hungry.” 

“With tuition costs at an all-time high, college students are oftentimes stuck picking between education and nutrition, and it’s simply unacceptable. No student should have to study or learn on an empty stomach,” said Sen. Luján. “That’s why I’m proud to join my colleagues in introducing the Food for Thought Act. This legislation provides resources to campuses that will allow them to connect students with the food they need to thrive. It’s proven that learning while hungry makes it difficult to retain information, and this bill will help ensure students no longer have to choose between their next meal, or buying textbooks.” 

"Food insecurity disproportionately impacts students of color, and is only made worse by additional socioeconomic barriers that make actions like buying textbooks or staying enrolled in school extremely difficult, if not impossible,” said Rep. Barragán. “I am proud to support the Food for Thought Act and address hunger at community colleges and Minority Serving Institutions, so every student – no matter their income – can focus fully on their studies and the futures they work tirelessly to build."

"I was proud to be part of the group of trustees that dialogued with Congressman Schiff at his office to come up with the initial Food For Thought legislation," said Pasadena City College, Trustee Jim Osterling. "We were delighted when the legislation passed and fully support the Re-Introduction of this important legislation. I look forward to the day when every community college student in the country that is income eligible will receive free or reduced meals, just as qualifying K-12 students now receive this important nutritional benefit." 

“Above all, community college leaders are committed to helping our students thrive as whole individuals. When a student comes to class but hasn’t had enough to eat or is exhausted because they are working too many hours just to afford their basic needs, they are not ready to grow their minds. These barriers affect many of our students, but particularly those in groups that are already facing other socioeconomic challenges,” said the Community College League of California Chancellor Board of Directors President, Julianna M. Barnes. “Legislation like Congressman Schiff’s Food for Thought Act is what we need to have to support the whole student. It is also what our communities need to ensure that we are providing education with equity.”

“When I hear of a student’s struggle with food insecurity, I think about how much courage it took for them to share that they are hungry. I also think about the many students who do not voice their lack of basic needs. Given this, California’s community college trustees widely support programs that provide a direct way to impact students’ lives and futures. While free meal programs like this are in place for students in our K-12 schools, many college-aged students are suddenly faced with the choice of continuing their education or caring for their livelihood. When this legislation was first introduced, I steadfastly promoted it and do so today since it reflects what our students need,” said Community College League of California Trustee Board President, Andra Hoffman. “Congressional member Schiff’s continued press for this legislation is crucial to helping our students and their families. I wholeheartedly continue to support the Food for Thought Act to ensure that community college students do not have to go hungry.”

“Food insecurity is a challenge for Los Angeles Community College students. Our students should be able to focus on getting an education — and they can’t do that when they don’t know where their next meal is coming from. LACCD is grateful for Rep. Schiff’s efforts to ensure that no student goes hungry while pursuing their degree.” from Los Angeles Community College District Chancellor Francisco C. Rodriguez

Community colleges play an essential role in closing the higher education gap and also fostering social and economic mobility for many low-income and underserved students. MSIs — specifically, Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), Tribal Colleges and Universities (TCUs), Hispanic Serving Institutions (HSIs), and Asian American, Native American and Pacific Islander Serving Institutions (AANAPISIs) —create pathways for students of color to achieve equity through access to higher education.

Rising education costs and cost of living expenses create barriers for students – especially low income students and students of color. Food insecurity reportedly affects almost 40% of community college students and many have to skip meals because they can’t afford to eat.

In addition to creating programs that provide free meals for students in need, the Food For Though Act will also provide funding to conduct campus outreach and provide information to participating students on eligibility for federal food assistance programs like SNAP and collect data on food insecurity on campuses to expand anti-hunger programming. Grant funding can also be used to update much needed food infrastructure on campus that students can use and build food pantries and community gardens on campus. 

This legislation is cosponsored in the House by Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.), Nydia Velázquez (D-N.Y.), Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.), Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.), Linda Sánchez (D-Calif.), Gwen Moore (D-Wis.), Yvette Clarke (D-N.Y.), Hank Johnson (D-Ga.), André Carson (D-Ind.), Terri Sewell (D-Ala.), Frederica Wilson (D-Fla.), Donald Payne Jr. (D-N.J.), Dina Titus (D-Nev.), Tony Cárdenas (D-Calif.), Jared Huffman (D-Calif.), Grace Meng (D-N.Y.), Mark DeSaulnier (D-Calif.), Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-N.J.), Dwight Evans (D-Pa.), Jimmy Panetta (D-Calif.), Madeleine Dean (D-Pa.), Veronica Escobar (D-Texas), Jahana Hayes (D-Conn.), Katie Porter (D-Calif.), Jamaal Bowman (D-N.Y.), Cori Bush (D-Mo.), Melanie Stansbury (D-N.M.), Jonathan Jackson (D-Ill.), Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-Washington D.C.), and Gregorio Kilili Camacho Sablan (D-Northern Mariana Islands).

The Senate bill was cosponsored by Senators Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Bernie Sanders (D-Vt.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.) , and John Fetterman (D-Pa.).

The Food for Thought Act is endorsed by the Nutrition Policy Institute, University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources, University of California System, American Association of Community Colleges, Association of Community College Trustees, Association of Independent California Colleges and Universities, California State University, Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP), Congressional Hunger Center, Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities (HACU), The Hope Center at Temple University, Institute for Higher Education Policy (IHEP), League of California Community Colleges, Los Angeles Community College District, MAZON: A Jewish Response to Hunger, NAACP, National Urban League, NEA, Network for Public Education, Pasadena City College, Southern California College Attainment Network, Swipe Out Hunger, and UnidosUS.

Read the full bill text here.