U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, member of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry, stood in front of Eugenio María de Hostos Community College in the Bronx to announce her legislation, the Enhance Access to SNAP (EATS) Act, which would expand Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefit eligibility to all college students attending 2 and 4-year universities part-time or more who meet traditional SNAP income and other eligibility requirements. Gillibrand was joined by CUNY Chancellor Félix Matos Rodríguez, Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr., Assembly Member Amanda Septimo, Hostos Community College President Dr. Daisy Cocco De Filippis, Hostos Health And Wellness Director Fabián Wander, LCSW, and Hunger Free America CEO Joel Berg. Congressman Ritchie Torres (NY-15) is also a cosponsor.
Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, students on college campuses in New York and across the nation were experiencing high levels of food insecurity and hunger. According to The Hope Center for College, Community, and Justice, food insecurity is a serious problem on college campuses across the nation, especially for students of color, first-generation students, low-income students, and students at community colleges. Student work requirements, known as “work for food,” only serve to exacerbate food insecurity among college students and continue to impede student learning, health, and stability.
Senator Gillibrand has been a leader in the fight against food insecurity and has continuously led the charge to protect and expand access to healthy meals for children, seniors, students, and veterans since her first days in office. Gillibrand’s EATS Act would ensure that SNAP no longer requires eligible students to perform work study or 20 hours per week of outside employment in order to receive benefits.
“No student should be forced to make the impossible choice between food and education, but that is sadly the choice students face on campuses across New York every day. We were able to make more low-income college students temporarily eligible for SNAP in our COVID relief efforts, but we have to go further. That is why I am introducing the Enhance Access to SNAP (EATS) Act alongside Representatives Torres and Espaillat. This bill would permanently eliminate the work-for-food requirement for college students, because students should be allowed to focus on their studies without worrying about where their next meal is coming from or how they will fit in a part-time job on top of their full-time academic career,” said Senator Gillibrand.
“We’re seeing a hunger crisis sweep across college campuses nationwide, setting too many of our most vulnerable students up to fail – and it’s absolutely unacceptable” said Congressman Adriano Espaillat (NY-13). “No student should ever have to choose between a meal and their education, and as public servants it’s our duty to ensure no student is ever put in that position – here in New York State and around the country. I’m proud to join Senator Gillibrand in this fight to eliminate work-for-food barriers for low-income students – and through it, fostering a more equitable learning environment for young scholars around our nation.”
“The growing hunger crisis among college students hinders their ability to excel in their studies, complete their education and will impact their financial success in the long run. The COVID-19 pandemic has only exacerbated the hunger crisis, and made clear that we must adjust governmental tools to meet the needs of the moment. SNAP is one of the most effective tools we have to combat hunger, but unfortunately current restrictions prevent food-insecure, low-income college students from using this important benefit. We have a moral obligation to ensure that no one goes hungry. The EATS Act would expand SNAP eligibility to college students, and this legislation is an important step in combatting the hunger crisis in higher education that has been made worse by the pandemic,” said Congressman Ritchie Torres (NY-15)
“Food insecurity transcends educational and socio-economic expectations, and even follows many college students in their pursuit of earning a degree,” said Congressman Jamaal Bowman (NY-16). “People deserve the ability to buy food, including healthy food options, for their sustenance and nourishment – especially as their minds are being constantly stimulated throughout the process of earning a degree. Many college students face multiple economic burdens that will follow them after college – including student loans. There is no reason they should endure the additional stress of being able to afford to eat. The EATS Act allows us to continue in the right direction of taking care of the people who need it most.”
“Food insecurity can have wide-ranging negative impacts for so many in our community, and is particularly hard on students during this critical time in their educational and professional development. Students of color and LGBTQ students are more likely to face food insecurity, and COVID-19 has only increased these disparities. The EATS Act would permanently ensure low-income college students have access to the nutrition they need without subjecting them to harmful work-for-food requirements. Thank you to Senator Gillibrand and Congressman Torres for their commitment to the health and wellbeing of our students,” said New York State Senator José M. Serrano
“College students here in The Bronx and across the country experience a high level of food insecurity, a problem that has been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Senator Gillibrand’s legislation to permanently allow college students to have access to SNAP benefits without a work requirement will enable these students to focus more on their studies and less on making ends meet. I applaud the Senator’s efforts to provide this critical aid,” said Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr.
“I support the EATS Act, expanding critical food access programs for low-income students. As it eliminates the current work-for-food requirements for students in the SNAP program and reduces the documentation and paperwork burden, EATS removes barriers which further discourage those in need from applying. We should do everything in our power to support students working towards a better future for themselves and their families, and that means giving them an opportunity to learn free from hunger,” said New York Assembly Member Amanda Septimo.
“We want all students to be focused on their education, not worrying about how they’ll pay for their next meal. That is why we enthusiastically applaud Senator Gillibrand’s efforts to permanently remove barriers to SNAP eligibility for college students,” said CUNY Chancellor Félix V. Matos Rodríguez. “One of the country’s most robust antidotes to food insecurity has long been largely off limits to one of its most vulnerable populations. Enabling all college students of limited means to qualify for SNAP benefits would be an unprecedented step toward combating student food insecurity and, in so doing, making higher education more equitable. The EATS Act would help CUNY advance its mission of elevating New Yorkers from underserved communities. We thank Senator Gillibrand for her leadership.”
“Food insecurity was a serious problem in the South Bronx, even before COVID. Hostos and CUNY students who face this harsh reality deserve the opportunity the EATS Act bill presents. All eligible New York City students should know they can pursue their education and have food on their tables. Many drop out because they need to work to be eligible for SNAP benefits and cannot go to school. I am grateful to Senator Gillibrand for sponsoring the EATS Act, and to all four Bronx Congress Members Torres, Espaillat, Bowman and Ocasio-Cortez for co-sponsoring the bill, which if passed will expand the federal SNAP program to all eligible college students,” said Dr. Daisy Cocco De Filippis, President of Hostos Community College.
“Not only is enabling more low-income college students to obtain SNAP benefits the best way to fight campus hunger, it’s also one of the most effective ways to help students get their degrees, increase their long-term earning capabilities, and thus no longer need SNAP in the future,” said Joel Berg, CEO of the nonprofit group Hunger Free America. “We once again thank Senator Gillibrand for her steadfast leadership on these vital issues.”
- In the fall of 2018, 45% of college students were food insecure in the prior 30 days
- In the fall of 2018, 48% of CUNY undergraduates were food insecure in the prior 30 days
- In the fall of 2019, 36% of SUNY students were food insecure in the prior 30 days
- Students of color were more likely to experience basic needs insecurity; 75% of Indigenous, 70% of Black, 64% of Hispanic or Latino, and 70% of Native American or Alaska Native students experienced food insecurity, housing insecurity, and/or homelessness.
Today’s SNAP eligibility rules for students are overly complicated and only include college students working 20 hours per week or participating in a federal or state work study, or those who meet very specific exemptions. In December 2020, Congress passed the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021, which temporarily extended SNAP eligibility to students who are eligible for federal or state work study and students with an Expected Family Contribution (EFC) of $0, including students eligible for the maximum Pell Grant. These temporary student eligibility changes for SNAP will remain in effect until 30 days after the federally declared COVID-19 public health emergency ends. The EATS Act goes a step further and would permanently ensure that low-income college students have equitable access to SNAP benefits by amending the Food and Nutrition Act of 2008 to include “attending an institution of higher education” as a form of qualification the same as work. With this change, 470,000 New York college students would qualify for SNAP assistance, including as many as 290,000 newly eligible students.
For a one-pager of the EATS Act, click here.
For the bill text of the EATS Act, click here.
For the endorsement list, click here.