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July 25, 2019

Schiff Introduces Food for Thought Act to Address Food Insecurity on Community College Campuses

Legislation Would Provide Free Meals to Students in Need

Washington D.C. – Today, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) introduced the Food for Thought Act, which would create a demonstration program to make grants available to community colleges so they can provide free meals to food-insecure students. The program would be administered by the Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) within the United States Department of Agriculture.

“Community colleges play an essential role in providing a first class education and giving all Americans the tools to succeed,” said Rep. Schiff. “Yet financial aid often falls short, and the associated costs of pursuing higher education can be overwhelming. These costs include textbooks, school supplies, housing, transportation, and the most basic of needs: food. After hearing from community colleges in my area about the number of their students who depended on campus foodbanks to meet basic needs, I believe we must act. Establishing a free meal program for students in need would eliminate a major barrier to graduation and future success.”

Students suffering from food insecurity face academic, financial, and health challenges. A recent study found nearly 45% of community college students report some degree of food insecurity, with significant percentages of community college students skipping some meals because they cannot afford to buy food. Hunger can force students to make difficult decisions that affect their academic success, such as missing classes or dropping out of school to work more.

The Food for Thought Act would authorize FNS to make grants available for community college campuses to establish a free meal program for eligible students, conduct campus outreach, prepare and/or purchase meals from vendors, and provide information to participating students on eligibility for Federal food assistance programs. Grants would be awarded to an assortment of community colleges, reflecting varying student body size; full-time student enrollment; geographic location; and residential character, including race/ethnicity make-up and socioeconomic status.

FNS, in consultation with state education agencies and community colleges, would provide technical assistance to grantees, which includes general program administration, training college employees to manage the program, developing student outreach materials, and, as applicable, developing prepared food infrastructure. Grantees would be directed to collect and share data on the prevalence of food insecurity on their campuses and an evaluation of the use of grant funding in addressing such food insecurity to be used for the development of recommendations to expand the program nationwide. 

“I want to thank Congressman Schiff for his leadership on this critical issue,” said Los Angeles Community College District (LACCD) Board of Trustees President Andra Hoffman. “LACCD has been at the forefront working to address food insecurity for our students. The Food for Thought Act would provide new, critical resources to community colleges to provide free, desperately needed meals for college students working to achieve success. Further, the program will provide important data so that best practices can be shared and these results can be effectively scaled nationwide. We look forward to working with Congressman Schiff to ensure that this legislation is signed into law.”

“Congressman Schiff’s Food for Thought Act would provide vital federal resources to strengthen significantly the efforts of California Community Colleges in confronting the very real and urgent problem of student food insecurity,” said Dr. Larry Galizio President & CEO, Community College League of California. “This federal, state, and local partnership offers an innovative and flexible approach to support our students statewide.”

“Hungry students face particular hurdles to succeeding in college, and, unfortunately, too many community college students are hungry. This legislation represents an innovative approach to addressing the problem of food insecurity for students and giving them a better chance to achieve their educational goals,” said Walter G. Bumphus, Ph.D, President and CEO, American Association of Community Colleges. “Community colleges continue to enroll more underrepresented and low income students than any other sector of higher education, and we applaud this chance to increase student completion by removing hunger as a barrier to success.”

"Remember that half of American community college students are facing food insecurity and still, they continue to pursue their degree because they know it is their most assured path to economic opportunity. The Food For Thought Act bolsters that promise to students by providing their institutions with the resources to ensure students are able to eat that day,” Rachel Sumekh, Founder and CEO of Swipe Out Hunger. “Swipe Out Hunger has supported colleges in addressing student hunger since 2010 and Congressman Schiff's leadership through the Food For Thought Act marks a significant moment in the movement to end college hunger.”

“The National School Lunch Program recognizes that in order to learn, students must eat.  There is no reason for NLSP's critical support to end when a student finishes high school— college is now essential, and lunch is a college success strategy,” said Sara Goldrick-Rab, Founding Director, Hope Center for College, Community, and Justice. “Students have been hungry for the sort of change this bill brings, research demonstrates it is necessary, and we applaud Representative Schiff for taking action.”

This legislation is endorsed by the  Los Angeles Community College District, Pasadena City College, Glendale Community College, the Community College League of California, the American Association of Community Colleges, Swipe Out Hunger, and the Hope Center for College, Community, and Justice.

Click here for a background document on the legislation. Click here for full text of the legislation.