Press Release

With Emergency Covid-19 Snap Benefits Set To Expire, Senator Gillibrand Announces Eats Act To Expand Snap Benefit Eligibility To More College Students

May 9, 2023

As Many As 290,000 New York College Students Would Become Newly Eligible For SNAP Benefits Under The EATS Act

Today, U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand stood at Baruch College to announce 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 eligibility requirements. Gillibrand’s EATS Act is especially needed as the emergency COVID-19 provisions that expanded SNAP eligibility for college students expire 30 days after the end of the Public Health Emergency this Thursday, May 11, 2023. Even before the COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated the hunger crisis, students on college campuses in New York were experiencing high levels of food insecurity and hunger. As many as 290,000 New York college students would become newly eligible for SNAP benefits under the EATS Act.

Gillibrand was joined by college students, anti-hunger advocates, and higher education officials, including CUNY Baruch College President Dr. S. David Wu, CUNY Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Denise B. Maybank, SUNY Senior Vice Chancellor for Student Success Donna Linderman, CUNY Medgar Evers College President Dr. Patricia Ramsey, NYC Council Member Carlina Rivera, NYC Council Member Eric Dinowitz, NYC Council Member and Chair of the New York City Council Subcommittee on Senior Centers and Food Insecurity Darlene Mealy, CUNY City College of New York student and advocate for Swipe Out Hunger Tara Hernandez, and NYC Mayor’s Office of Food Policy Executive Director Kate MacKenzie.

“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.”

“A college education is a critical step to help lift people out of poverty, but we know that too many have to choose between going to college and putting food on the table,” said NYS Senator Liz Krueger. ”Our hard-working college students deserve the leg up that SNAP access can provide, and I am very glad that Sen. Gillibrand will be re-introducing the EATS Act to deliver this crucial assistance.”

“In one of the wealthiest countries in the world, students should not be forced to search high and low for their next meal,”said Assemblymember Linda B. Rosenthal, Chair of the Assembly Committee on Housing and sponsor of the Hunger-Free Campus Act in the New York State Assembly. “Yet, with rising rents, inflated grocery costs, and stagnant wages, far too many young adults in New York State and across the country are attending school on empty stomachs or working multiple jobs to make ends meet. However, we have the power to level the playing field with Senator Gillibrand’s recipe for change: the Eats Act bill. Expanding SNAP eligibility for students, coupled with my bill, the Hunger-Free Campus Act, would go a long way in addressing hunger on college campuses.” 

“If students attending our colleges and universities don’t know where their next meal will come from, they cannot focus on becoming the leaders of the next generation,” said Assemblymember Deborah Glick. “Expanding eligibility for SNAP benefits and simplifying the process to receive the benefits for our hardworking college students is not only the right thing to do, but is a wise investment in our future. I thank Senator Gillibrand for reintroducing this important legislation.”

“In order for college to be a catalyst for economic opportunity for all, we must ensure that all students have food security. Among the many lessons we learned during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic is that students do better when they know they’ll be able to eat. I commend Senator Gillibrand for introducing legislation to permanently ensure more equitable SNAP access for low-income college students,” said New York City Council Member Carlina Rivera.

“I applaud Senator Gillibrand’s re-introduction of the Enhance Access to SNAP (EATS) Act. Students are more than their transcript and deserve every opportunity to succeed,” said New York City Council Member Eric Dinowitz. “We must recognize that the needs of our students extend outside the four walls of the classroom. This includes their food security, and by permanently expanding SNAP eligibility to college students, we can recognize the whole student and help alleviate food insecurity so that our students have every opportunity to achieve their dreams.”

“I thank Senator Gillibrand for her compassion and leadership in an issue that has been neglected for far too long: food insecurity facing our college students,” said New York City Council Member Darlene Mealy. “If you are working hard to better yourself and get an education, the last thing you should have to worry about is getting a wholesome nutritious meal. The Senator’s bill, the EATS Act of 2023 is a solution that must be embraced and supported without hesitance.”

“Too many college students across the country cope with food insecurity, which makes learning and pursuing a degree a challenge. The EATS Act will help these students, including those at CUNY, get the food assistance they so desperately need by removing a barrier to SNAP eligibility. We are grateful to Senator Gillibrand for introducing this legislation and for her leadership to reduce hunger among college students,” said CUNY Chancellor Félix V. Matos Rodríguez.

SUNY Chancellor John B. King, Jr. said, “Food insecurity plagues our campuses and the nation’s institutions of higher education, stymieing students who cannot nourish their minds on empty stomachs. Expanding access to proven supports like SNAP is an effective way to combat hunger, and a crucial step in serving students. SUNY is tremendously grateful to Senator Gillibrand for her leadership in introducing the EATS Act and fighting for access to SNAP benefits for more college students.”

“Given the preponderance of food insecurity among low-income college students who strive to obtain a college education, such that they can provide a better life for themselves and their families, the EATS Act will enable these students to access SNAP benefits, if they are attending college at least one-half time. The EATS Act will definitely help students at Medgar Evers College, where some 1500 students are serviced by our “Cougar Country Food Pantry,” said Patricia Ramsey, President of CUNY-Medgar Evers College, a Predominately Black Institution (PBI) in Central Brooklyn. “I applaud U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, for recognizing the need and leading the legislation to amend the Food and Nutrition Act of 2008, to make it possible for food-insecure low-income college students to gain access to SNAP benefits, without the extra stress of having to work 20 hours per week, while trying to keep up with their studies.”

“With the cost of groceries rising, college students must maintain access to SNAP benefits. College is hard enough, but it’s even harder when you compound the stress of expenses like groceries. Let’s give students a chance to focus on what’s important, education. Thank you, Senator Gillibrand, for advancing the EATs Act of 2023 to maintain access to nutritious meals for college students,” said MOFP Executive Director Kate MacKenzie.

“The need for greater federal support for college students has become increasingly urgent, particularly due to the impacts of COVID-19, rising food costs, and economic instability,” said Jaime Hansen, Executive Director of Swipe Out Hunger. “Three in five college students face food insecurity and housing instability, and marginalized groups are disproportionately affected. Swipe Out Hunger is urging the federal government to prioritize education and student success by addressing some of these issues head-on with the EATS Act. Creating equitable pathways to education is a fundamental issue of social justice and future economic success. The EATS Act works to ensure that every student has access to the resources and support they need.”

Sean Henry Miller, Northeast Regional Director of Young Invincibles, the nation’s largest young adult policy and advocacy organization, stated, “This issue is very simple – students deserve to focus on school and not where their next meal will come from, especially in this time of skyrocketing costs for college, rent, and groceries. They deserve not just to survive but to thrive as they earn a college degree and build their nascent careers. Thus, we must prioritize eliminating eligibility restrictions and workforce requirements that hinder students and families, especially those from historically marginalized backgrounds, from accessing SNAP benefits.”

“GrowNYC supports Senator Gillibrand’s Enhance Access to SNAP (EATS) Act to permanently expand SNAP benefits to low-income college students throughout the five boroughs and statewide,”
said Marcel Van Ooyen, President and CEO of GrowNYC. “We at GrowNYC believe that food is a basic human right. During the COVID-19 pandemic, we saw firsthand how expanded SNAP benefits brought the freshest, healthiest local food to communities that needed it the most. The Eats Act of 2023 will not only increase SNAP eligibility but also give the additional opportunity for students to stretch their SNAP dollars when they receive the NYC Health Bucks SNAP incentive as they use their EBT cards at any farmers market across the city. These measures taken by Senator Gillibrand reinforce New York State’s commitment to alleviating food insecurity and ensuring all New Yorkers to have equitable food access.”

“At Part of the Solution (POTS), we have seen a significant increase in demand for food services for a diverse array of clients, including students and households with students in The Bronx,” said Christina Hanson, Executive Director of Part of the Solution (POTS). “We cannot stress enough the crucial role that SNAP plays in the overall stability of these individuals and households. We actively help our clients to apply for these benefits so that they have the food they need and can focus on working towards achieving their academic and professional goals.”

“In the wake of the end of pandemic emergency SNAP allotments and persistently high rates of food insecurity, Senator Gillibrand’s EATS Act, Closing the Meal Gap Act, and related legislation will provide critical nutrition support for low-income Americans, including college students struggling with food insecurity,” said Nevin Cohen, Director of the CUNY Urban Food Policy Institute.

“City Harvest applauds the Senator for her leadership on this long-overlooked issue. For far too long, many New Yorkers have been forced to choose between food and furthering their education,” said Jilly Stephens, Chief Executive Officer of City Harvest. “This bill offers a common-sense path to provide low-income college students with access to the affordable food they need to advance their careers through education. We look forward to partnering with the Senator and New York City’s strong community of anti-hunger institutions to ensure this fundamental right is reflected in the 2023 Farm Bill.”

“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 ensure that students can focus on getting their degrees and increase their long-term earning potential, making it less likely that they will need SNAP in the future,” said Kim Moscaritolo, Director of Communications for Hunger Free America. “We once again thank Senator Gillibrand for her steadfast leadership on these vital issues.”

“NYC is not your typical college town, but it’s a college town nonetheless. College students contribute to the economy and strengthen the business and nonprofit communities through internships and volunteering,” said Cassandra Agredo, Executive Director of Xavier Mission. “In recent months, college students who have been volunteering at the Xavier Mission Food Pantry have begun to request a few pantry items to tide them over from month to month. Despite their embarrassment in asking, the rising cost of groceries, and the already high cost of campus meal plans, have taken a serious toll on students and have made it necessary for them to seek additional resources. Access to SNAP would help them tremendously, and we owe it to college students in NYC to support them as they contribute to and benefit our city. Xavier Mission strongly endorses the EATS Act, and we thank Senator Gillibrand for her ongoing leadership in the fight against hunger.”

“Many of the students who visit our food pantries on college campuses report not being able to access SNAP. The EATS Act would ensure more students across our country have the food they need to grow, learn and thrive,” said Leslie Gordon, President and CEO of Food Bank For New York City“We are proud to stand with Senator Gillibrand who has been standing up for people experiencing food insecure by fighting for policies that combat hunger and make our nation stronger.”

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. 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. In 2019, a SUNY survey found that 54% of community college students and 40% of students from state-operated campuses in NYS reported they did not have enough money for food at times.

This situation is only made worse by SNAP’s overly complicated eligibility rules for students, which 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 on May 11, 2023. 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. This bill is cosponsored by Cory Booker (D-NJ), Peter Welch (D-VT), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Alex Padilla (D-CA), Ron Wyden (D-OR), and Bob Casey (D-PA).

For a one-pager of the EATS Act, click here

For the bill text of the EATS Act, click here.