Legislation to permanently extend college students’ eligibility for the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program was introduced in Congress Tuesday. The benefit was temporarily expanded in 2020 in response to the coronavirus pandemic.
Congress expanded eligibility requirements for SNAP in December to include full-time students who participate in state or federal work-study programs and those who do not receive financial support from family to pay for college. The expansion was in response to reports of increasing food insecurity among students during the pandemic and economic recession. Students enrolled in college full-time were typically not eligible for SNAP benefits, unless they met certain requirements such as working 20 hours each week or having to care for children.
In addition to making the expansion permanent, the proposed legislation would also expand SNAP benefits to students who are eligible for federal financial aid and those who are independent and "whose household is otherwise eligible" for SNAP, according to a summary of the legislation published by the office of Senator Elizabeth Warren, a Democrat from Massachusetts and one of the seven sponsors of the bill. The proposed legislation also aims to increase outreach by colleges to students eligible for SNAP benefits and will create a $1 billion annual federal grant program for institutions to combat food insecurity among students.
Most studies conducted about student hunger between 2007 to 2018 found that the rate of food insecurity on campuses is more than 30 percent, according to a 2018 Government Accountability Office report. Similar and sometimes heightened rates of food insecurity or skipping meals to pay for college supplies have been reported during the pandemic.