First Lady Frances Wolf joined Senate Democratic Appropriations Chairman Vincent Hughes, Senator Carolyn Comitta, House Democratic Leader Joanna McClinton, Representative Jennifer O’Mara, students and activists to call for action to address food insecurity on college campuses in Pennsylvania.
“The college should do not be a privilege reserved for people with disposable income, and hunger should never be what stops someone from succeeding in higher education,” First Lady Wolf said. “Yet national studies estimate that more than 30% of students are food insecure. We must do everything we can to support our students as they pursue a future that can benefit all of Pennsylvania.
In his 2022-23 budget proposal, Governor Tom Wolf allocated $1 million to create a grant program that could help Pennsylvania higher education institutions address this issue on their campuses.
This program could help schools create or expand campus pantries, increase awareness of available supports, hire social workers or benefits navigators to help students, improve data collection efforts , etc The details of the program are still being worked out, but it draws inspiration from the Hunger-Free Campus bills that Senator Comitta and Representative Malcolm Kenyatta have proposed in recent years.
Coupled with the proposed budget increases for the post-secondary sector, this investment could have very positive effects on our students and our school communities by reducing the barriers that hinder the achievement of college and professional goals.
“COVID has revealed an unspoken secret, that a significant number of college students are food insecure,” Senator Hughes said. “Through the leadership of the First Lady and Governor Wolf, we have the opportunity to make an impact in reversing the staggering number of food insecure students. College students are facing enough challenges without having to worry about where their next meal is coming from.
An estimated 36% of students know someone who dropped out of college due to food insecurity during the pandemic, and about 52% of students facing food or housing insecurity in 2020 did not ask help because they didn’t know how.
“There is a growing awareness at Penn State and other college campuses of the significant barrier to student success caused by food insecurity. A student who does not have access to sufficient, healthy food just can’t learn and participate the way they otherwise would,” said Pennsylvania State University Vice President of Student Affairs Damon Sims. “It’s been encouraging to see the commitment of our leaders students to meaningfully address this fundamental issue in partnership with the Penn State administration.Governor Wolf’s proposed funding would make a huge difference in our collective effort to overcome a challenge faced by too many students across the Commonwealth. We can all do better with these students, and I know we will.
All Penn State campuses have on-campus or community pantries. Most campuses offer on-campus food pantries, food distribution services, and/or community gardens. Penn State President Eric J. Barron and First Lady Molly Barron recently established a Food Security Endowment that will support the purchase of college meal plans for Penn State undergraduate students. Penn who are facing food insecurity.
A 2018 report released by the Federal Government Accountability Office found that about half of all undergraduate students in 2016 were financially independent, and the average age of a student was 25. About 22% of all undergraduate students had dependent children of their own and 14% were single parents.
Many students who are leaving secondary school have relied on free or reduced-price meals throughout their schooling. These programs don’t exist for college students — even though the student’s socioeconomic status likely hasn’t changed. The dietary challenges they faced in elementary school follow them into the next phase of their lives and may even become more difficult as they juggle new financial responsibilities like housing, books and other costs. .
“No student should go hungry to pursue their dream of higher education and career success. Studies and first-hand accounts tell us that food and basic needs insecurity is a growing agenda on college campuses. Common sense tells us that this is a solvable question. And we are working to take action to resolve it in Pennsylvania,” Sen. Comitta said. “I thank the First Lady for her commitment to ending campus hunger, Governor Wolf for his support of the Hunger-Free Campus initiative in his budget plan, and our students and hunger organizations for their ongoing advocacy efforts.”
“The cost of higher education in Pennsylvania continues to rise as financial aid fails to keep up, which can force students to financially neglect other areas of their lives. Food insecurity on college campuses has been a problem for decades, and Pennsylvania is behind the times to address it,” Rep. O’Mara said. “Students cannot thrive and reach their full potential if their basic needs are not met. We must pass the Hunger Free Campuses Act which I introduced in the House alongside State Rep. Malcom Kenyatta and deliver students across the Commonwealth.”
The national nonprofit Swipe Out Hunger brought about 100 students and school administrators to the state Capitol on Monday to meet with lawmakers and advocate for change.
Students from the following schools attended: Bloomsburg University, Carnegie Mellon University, Community College of Allegheny County, California University of Pennsylvania, DeSales University, Kutztown University of Pennsylvania, Millersville University, Point Park University, Prism Career Institute, Robert Morris University, Temple University, University of Pittsburgh, University of Pennsylvania, West Chester University, Widener University and Wilson College.
“It says a lot that the First Lady is supporting our coalition of more than 100 students across Pennsylvania and other community partners to address student food insecurity through the Hunger Free Campus Bill,” said Rachel Sumekh, Founder. and CEO of Swipe Out Hunger. “We are excited to galvanize and organize together so that no student has to choose between food and their education.”
Sumekh’s organization works closely with leaders on the ground to not only ensure that today’s students have access to meals, but also to address student hunger upstream with legislation and sustainable policies. Their nationwide movement spans more than 400 colleges in all 50 states and has served 2.5 million nutritious meals to date.
To learn more about college food and basic needs insecurities, visit Temple University’s Hope Center for College, Community, and Justice website at hope4college.com.