Student hunger is a statewide issue that is being slowly relieved at the primary and high school levels. However, it is also a prominent issue among college students. With the cost of tuition increasing and the burden of paying for rent, textbooks and other supplies, students often go hungry or eat a nutrient-poor diet. As a result, two Bills: AB 214 and AB 453 were created and were set to be heard for the first time by the education committee Tuesday, April 25th.
As of now, all ten UC campuses have a food pantry, and “the UC system has begun trying to resolve the issue of food insecurity” according to Young Invincibles Policy Director Christopher Nellum.. Young Invincibles is a non-profit organization that works to expand the economic opportunity for young adults, focusing on issues surrounding higher education, healthcare, and financial security. Christopher Nellie and Allie Aguilera, Young Invincibles Press Secretary, initially reached out to ask for help in getting the word out on the AB 214 and AB 453 Bills.
The goal that Nellie and Aguilera had was getting individuals to understand that students do have so many other things to worry about such as classes. A survey conducted in 2015 across UC’s showed that 42% of students were impacted by the issue of food insecurity. Both undergraduate and graduate students are affected, with a higher impact on low-income students and students of color.
The Student Anti-Hunger Program (Bill AB 453) sets standards and makes incentives to encourage statewide growth of student meal sharing programs. Food Insecure-Free Campus designation will require that four things be set in place to help students. These four requirements are as follows: there should be a campus employee who is designated to help students enroll in CalFresh, there should be a school food pantry, there should be a meal sharing program, and a campus employee should be designated as the point-of-contact for the meal sharing program.
The College Student Hunger Relief Act of 2017 (Bill AB 214) would build upon prior legislation to address the growing crisis of hunger on California’s college campuses. According to California State University, 24% of students experience hunger and 12% experience homelessness. This Bill would advance access to federal anti-hunger benefits for California’s low-income college students by essentially making food more accessible through CalFresh.
An original program is being put into action across the Nation called “Swipe Out Hunger” where students with meal plans can donate their unused meals to a student in need. This program began in 2009 at UCLA and is now in place at UCM, as well as at UC Santa Barbara, UC Riverside, UC Santa Cruz, and UC Davis. With these two Bills, and the programs that come along with them, students would be able to focus on school and be able to worry less about how they are going to get their next nutritious meal.
Photo Credit: UC Merced Office of Student Life