Reps. Gomez, Bonamici & Sen. Warren Lead Congressional Effort Urging Biden Admin to Address Student Hunger Crisis

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today Congressman Jimmy Gomez (CA-34), Congresswoman Suzanne Bonamici (OR-01), and Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) led a coalition of 20 congressional leaders in calling on the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and U.S. Department of Education (ED) to address the urgent student hunger crisis and ensure that college students have access to essential nutrition benefits.

In a letter sent to Secretaries Vilsack and Cardona, the members express deep concern over the expiration of expanded Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) eligibility for college students due to the conclusion of the COVID-19 public health emergency. Temporary waivers granted by Congress, under the Consolidated Appropriation Act, 2021, allowed college students to qualify for SNAP benefits. However, as of July 1, 2023, these flexibilities are no longer available, placing a burden on college students who are struggling to make ends meet.

The letter underscores the commitment of the Biden Administration to provide students with access to federal nutrition resources that meet their basic needs. As the lawmakers advocate for passage of four major bills to address student hunger and make the student SNAP exemptions permanent, they have come together to make this unified request for strong administrative action and a continued dialogue to follow through on their commitment by clarifying essential flexibilities in the SNAP student exemption rules.

Specifically, the members request Food and Nutrition Service (FNS), consulting with ED, use its existing authority to issue definite guidance, clarifying states’ ability to determine SNAP eligibility for higher education students who:

  • Attend community college,
  • Are enrolled in courses of study that are career-focused and are likely to lead to employment,
  • Have a disability that affects their ability to go to school full time and work 20 hours,
  • Or have been awarded work study and have not refused an available work study job.

A PDF of the letter can be found HERE.

Members on the letter include all co-leads of four major bills in the House and Senate to address student hunger in Congress, including:

·        Enhance Access to SNAP Act of 2023 or EATS Act of 2023, introduced by Representative Gomez alongside Reps. Josh Harder, Jimmy Panetta, Alma Adams, and Jim Costa, permanently expands SNAP to millions of college students experiencing hunger on a daily basis.

·        Student Food Security Act, introduced by Senators Warren, Chris Murphy, Alex Padilla, and Bernie Sanders and Representatives Jahana Hayes, Al Lawson, and Norma Torres, addresses food insecurity on college campuses by enabling more low-income college students to access SNAP, and pushing the federal government, states, and colleges and universities to take a more proactive role in addressing student food insecurity.

·        Opportunity to Address College Hunger Act, introduced by Representatives Suzanne Bonamici and Mark Takano, will require institutions of higher education to inform students in the Federal Work Study (FWS) program that they may qualify for SNAP benefits. Institutions would also give qualifying students official documentation of their eligibility, overcoming a common hurdle students face when applying for SNAP benefits.

·        Food for Thought Act, introduced by Representatives Adam Schiff and Nanette Barragán and Senators Peter Welch and Ben Ray Lujan, brings free meal programs to community college campuses and minority serving institutions (MSIs), helping address food insecurity for students at those institutions.

Members who signed the letter include:

Gomez, Jimmy; Warren, Elizabeth; Bonamici, Suzanne; Adams, Alma; Barragán, Nanette;  Costa, Jim; Gillibrand, Kirsten;  Harder, Josh; Hayes, Jahana; Luján, Ben Ray; McGovern, James; Murphy, Christopher; Padilla, Alex; Panetta, Jimmy; Sanders, Bernard; Schiff, Adam; Smith, Adam; Takano, Mark; Torres, Norma; and Welch, Peter.

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