Reps. Gomez, Costa, Panetta, Harder, Adams, Introduce Legislation to Expand SNAP Benefits for College Students

Washington, D.C. – Today Congressman Jimmy Gomez (CA-34), along with Reps. Josh Harder (CA-10), Jimmy Panetta (CA-20), Alma Adams (NC-12), Jim Costa (CA-21), and 117 other Members of Congress introduced legislation to address the growing crisis of food insecurity among college students. The Enhance Access to SNAP Act of 2023 or EATS Act of 2023 permanently expands Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) eligibility to millions of college students experiencing hunger on a daily basis.

Currently, burdensome "work for food" rules unfairly restrict access to SNAP for students and impede student learning, health, and stability. While temporary statutory authority created public health emergency exemptions to the general SNAP college student eligibility provisions, these exemptions will end shortly after the expiration of the Public Health emergency on May 11th.

Senator Kristen Gillibrand is introducing companion legislation in the Senate.

According to the Hope Center for College, Community, and Justice food insecurity impacts 39% of students at two-year institutions and 29% of students at four-year institutions. Additionally, 75% of Indigenous, 70% of Black, and 70% of American Indian or Alaska Native students across two- and four-year institutions experienced basic needs insecurity, especially food insecurity.

“The fight to end food insecurity is personal to me because my siblings and I relied on free meals at school and during the summers to stay healthy and fed when I was young,” said Rep. Gomez. “For so many, higher education is unattainable not just because of sky-rocketing tuition costs but also because of the lack of food security. I’m introducing the EATS Act to break down barriers to higher education and ensure no student goes to bed hungry. Our legislation is a necessary step to provide an equitable, healthy learning environment for all of our country’s bright young minds.”

“As a college professor for four decades, I’ve seen what happens when students go hungry. Food security programs shouldn’t punish students for pursuing the education they need to be successful in the workforce, and in life,” said Congresswoman Alma Adams, a senior member of the House Agriculture Committee. “That’s why the Act extends pandemic era improvements to SNAP that prevent student hunger and eliminate burdensome obligations that hinder student performance. Passing the EATS Act means low-income students will no longer choose between their meals and their education. We should pass this legislation now because every day we fail to act is another day our low-income students fall further behind.”

“Nearly one-third of college students at two and four-year institutions experience food insecurity that’s driven, in part, by antiquated and arbitrary barriers in our laws that prevent them from accessing basic nutritional programs,” said Rep. Panetta.  “I’m proud to co-lead the Enhance Access to SNAP Act alongside Rep. Jimmy Gomez to remove those barriers and expand eligibility to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), known as CalFresh in California, for students enrolled in college. Students have enough issues to worry about, and with the EATS Act we want to make sure that where and whether they get their next meal isn’t one of them.”

“This is a commonsense bill – we know our students can’t learn if they’re hungry. One in three college students face food insecurity meaning millions of young people aren’t able to live up to their potential,” said Rep. Harder. “If we want to set future generations up for success, we have to make sure they are getting the nutrition they need. This bill does just that by extending access to SNAP to college students. It’s a no-brainer if we care about our future.”

“With emergency COVID-19 SNAP benefits for college students set to expire next month, we need to simplify eligibility for critical SNAP benefits to combat food insecurity plaguing low-income college students across New York State and the country,” said Senator Gillibrand. “The EATS Act would eliminate work-for-food barriers for low-income students and ensure that as many as 4 million college students nationwide can access the SNAP benefits needed to learn and thrive. College students should never have to choose between food and their education - the time to act is now.”

"We applaud Rep. Gomez for his steadfast leadership to ensure college students have equitable access to SNAP to fuel their health and learning," said Luis Guardia, President of the Food Research & Action Center. “The EATS Act will create brighter futures for our students, and our nation."   

“Hunger should not be a part of the American college experience. Students should be able to focus on school without having to worry where their next meal will come from. As a result of the temporary assistance from the Covid Public Health Emergency ending, on average one-person households will lose $132 a month and for many students SNAP benefits will end completely Being a starving student is not a rite of passage,” said Kristin McGuire, Executive Director of Young Invincibles. “Lacking secure and stable access to food causes severe health impacts and interrupts their pursuit of a degree. We’ve seen how impactful SNAP temporary pandemic benefits have been -- eliminating this assistance or blunting their impact with work requirements would be a major step backwards for students. Young Invincibles is proud to support the Enhance Access to SNAP Act of 2023 and continue to invest in the success of young adults.”

“Ensuring students who are struggling with food insecurity have consistent and regular access to nutritious food is a crucial element of academic success. Removing the employment element and counting college attendance in the eligibility requirements for SNAP would be a significant improvement for our students,” said Dr. Dilcie Perez, Deputy Vice Chancellor, Academic & Student Affairs, California State University. “Without this change, many students are forced to make choices between eating, studying, or going to work. The CSU welcomes the changes proposed in the EATS Act.”

"The University of California strongly endorses the EATS Act, which would ensure that more college students are able to access vital nutrition benefits through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). Under current regulations for SNAP, many students are unable to utilize this essential lifeline as they pursue their education. UC applauds Congressman Gomez’s efforts to ensure equitable access to nutritious food for students who most need the support. All students should have access to food, housing, health care, and other resources they need to succeed, and ensuring those needs are met is a top priority for the University,” said Katherine S. Newman, Provost and Executive Vice President of Academic Affairs University of California system, Chancellor’s Distinguished Professor of Sociology & Public Policy, UC Berkeley.

“Too many of our students struggle to meet their basic needs, including food insecurity, which disproportionately impacts our students of color and low-income students," said Dr. Daisy Gonzales, Interim Chancellor of California Community Colleges. "As a major barrier to the total cost of success in the California Community Colleges, we are tackling this issue head-on at the state and campus level, but we need federal support. The EATS Act would give states and campuses a critical tool to fight student hunger, by expanding eligibility for SNAP benefits (also known as CalFresh) on a permanent basis. The California Community Colleges are pleased to support this measure and look forward to working with congressional leaders to ensure its passage – because hunger should not be an impediment to any student’s ability to attend and succeed in college,” said Chancellor Daisy Gonazles Ph.D., California Community College System.

“Every student in this country deserves the opportunity to pursue their dreams of higher education without having to go hungry. For too long, students with low incomes have faced stigma that by being a college student, they could not be in need of basic supports like food assistance - bias which became codified into unjust rules that now deny them access to SNAP.  The EATS Act ensures that college students, especially students of color, do not have to choose between a meal and their education. We thank Rep. Gomez for his continued leadership to make right this inequity. Eliminating food insecurity throughout our educational systems is essential to the overall well-being of our students and our country,” said Shimica Gaskins, President & CEO, GRACE/End Child Poverty California.

"College has become increasingly unaffordable for students who are burdened with significant increases to tuition and the costs of living associated with attending school. Students with low incomes, especially Black and Brown first generation college students, are too often forced to choose between necessary school supplies and basic needs like food,” said Christopher Sanchez, Policy Advocate with Western Center on Law and Poverty. “We need to help pave the way for students on their road to success, not lead them down on a road to debt and hunger. The EATS Act will ensure that no student has to rely on scrap change from couch cushions to buy subpar meals, instead, they will have access to nutritious food options to help fuel their education in more ways than one."

"All college students, regardless of their income, should be able to focus on their studies not on where they're going to get their next meal," said Becky Silva, director of government relations for the California Association of Food Banks. "Right now, students are facing a hunger crisis with the end of the Public Health Emergency and the re-enactment of an unjust rule that denies SNAP to college students. We are grateful to Representative Jimmy Gomez for reintroducing the EATs Act, which would ensure no college student goes hungry."


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