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Hunger is an unwelcome staple at college campuses across New Jersey.
Half of community college students struggle with food hardship, while one in five students are hungry, according to a 2015 national study of 10 community colleges, including Essex County Community College.
Hungry college students, like younger students, struggle to concentrate and succeed in school. They may be forced to delay their education to make ends meet – setting them up for a cycle of poverty that will be increasingly difficult to break.
The Hunger Free Campus Act promises to address this issue on New Jersey’s college campuses.
The legislation, which was approved by the Assembly Human Services Committee on Nov. 29, would establish a grant program to help colleges address collge hunger.
In order to be deemed a “hunger-free campus,” the institution is required to:
Establish a hunger task force that meets a minimum of three times per academic year to set at least two goals with action plans,
Designate a staff member responsible for assisting students with enrollment in the New Jersey Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, also known as food stamps),
Allow students to use SNAP benefits at campus stores,
Provide at least one food pantry on campus or enable students to receive food through a separate, stigma-free arrangement,
Develop a “Swipe Out Hunger” student meal credit sharing program or designate a certain amount of funds for free meal vouchers that might otherwise be raised through a “Swipe Out Hunger” program.
This measures is a great first step toward reducing hunger on college campuses.
A vote is expected Dec. 17 in the full Assembly. The measure still has to be approved by the Senate and signed by Gov. Phil Murphy.
We will be updating this page as this iniatitive progresses through the legislative process.
In other news, the New Jersey Department of Human Services announced in November 2018 that it is changing state rules to allow more community college students to qualify for SNAP. The new rule will allow career and technical education courses to count toward the state’s work requirements, which had been a significant barrier for college students who could not meet the 20-hour per week requirement, while also attending school full-time.
This important change — which has been a top priority for Hunger Free New Jersey — will help more students finish their education and go on to land better-paying jobs. We commend Commissioner Carole Johnson and the department for taking this important step.
Hunger Free New Jersey continues to work with the college community and state officials to develop other solutions to addressing hunger on our college campuses.