Fighting Food Insecurity on College Campuses

Project Bread's FoodSource Hotline

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Last summer, a university student called into our FoodSource Hotline requesting food assistance after they had spent the last year living on $60 a month for food.

They were hungry all the time and were only relying on themselves to pay for college and get their education. Fortunately, their university shared our Hotline number, and we were able to advise them on SNAP guidelines and how to apply, as well as other local resources available to them.  For any student struggling with hunger, it can be difficult to know what resources are available.  The good news is that many students currently may qualify for federal nutrition resources to take the issue of affordability and food access off their plates. The bad news is not many know how to access them.

College hunger has always been a problem. In Massachusetts, 37% of public university students are food insecure, with student parents, students of color and students of the LGBTQ community disproportionately affected. Pandemic relief measures have expanded access to critical assistance programs such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) for college students, yet only 20% of food insecure students are enrolled. SNAP benefits, formerly known as food stamps, provide funds for people to purchase the food they want, where and when they choose. SNAP is the most relied on food resource in the nation. Massachusetts-based college students experiencing food insecurity should call into Project Bread’s toll-free FoodSource Hotline (1-800-645-8333), which provides confidential assistance to connect with food resources, including SNAP benefits, in 180 languages and for the hearing impaired. Counselors will walk students through the SNAP eligibility and application process. You can also chat with one of our counselors online through the GettingSNAP.org chat function!

hands exchanging an apple at fruit stand

Students who are on or apply for SNAP can leverage the Healthy Incentives Program (HIP), a statewide initiative that matches each dollar of federal food assistance spent on certain fruits and vegetables. HIP benefits can be used at local farmer’s markets, farm stands, CSAs and mobile markets, including: East Boston Neighborhood Health Center in East Boston, The Food Project winter markets in Lynn and Roxbury, Boston Public Market in Boston’s North End neighborhood and Regional Environmental Council’s Beaver Farmers Market in Worcester. Locations and schedules of winter 2022 markets can be found on the MassGrown map.

“College students frequently experience food insecurity at higher levels than the general population,” says Erin McAleer, CEO of Project Bread. “We know college students who face food insecurity are less likely to complete their degree, less likely to receive an advanced degree, and more likely to have a lower grade point average than their food secure peers. It’s time to take action to ensure our young adults have the nutrition they need to focus on their futures.”

An Act Establishing the Massachusetts Hunger-Free Campus Initiative is a bill sponsored by Senator Harriette Chandler, Representative Andy Vargas and Representative Mindy Domb proposing a state-run grant program to help colleges fight food insecurity by implementing anti-hunger programs. Backed by The Hunger Free-Campus Coalition, a group of 35 colleges, community organizations and anti-hunger partners including Project Bread, the legislation, if passed, would seek to provide funding, technical assistance, and grant opportunities to campuses to support efforts to address food insecurity; incentivize campuses to maximize enrollment in SNAP and other federal nutrition programs; and urge campuses to create student-led food insecurity task forces to explore instituting anti-hunger initiatives in order to be considered for grant funding.

East asian male student with face mask at campus of university in summer

Project Bread invites all Massachusetts residents who support An Act Establishing the Massachusetts Hunger-Free Campus Initiative to join The Hunger Free-Campus Coalition and let their local legislatures know that they care about providing greater food access to all students on public college campuses by asking them to make the bill a priority this session. Every voice counts, and every meal matters.

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"Let's Chat" — our counselors are available online!

Have questions or want to find out if you are eligible for SNAP? Start a chat with a Project Bread FoodSource Hotline counselor using the Live Chat feature below!