Students in Louisiana who are struggling to eat enough food may soon receive assistance from their colleges. The Louisiana House Education Committee passed a bill to create the “Hunger-Free Campus” initiative on Tuesday.
Rep. Barbara Freiberg, R-Baton Rouge, the proposal’s author, expressed surprise that so many college students reported being food insecure.
According to the HOPE Center, four out of ten Louisiana college students are food insecure, which is defined by the federal government as someone who lives in a household with limited or uncertain access to appropriate nourishment.
According to the report, one-third of students in the state do not have enough money to buy food, and 20% lose weight as a result of their inability to eat.
The Louisiana Board of Regents would be required by Freiberg’s measure to establish a grant program that would distribute money to institutions recognized as “hunger-free campuses.”
A college would have to meet the following criteria in order to acquire the designation:
create a Hunger-Free Campus task team; inform students who receive need-based financial aid about their potential eligibility for SNAP benefits;
At least one anti-hunger awareness event should be held or participated in each academic year, as well as an assessment of the need for an on-campus food bank.
Food insecurity was a “major issue” for their pupils, higher education administrators told the committee.
The Louisiana Community and Technical College System’s vice president for workforce strategy, Chris Broadwater, said the program will be “a little step forward, but a very important one” in combating food insecurity on college campuses.
He told the committee, “We have to figure out how we’re serving all of these needs” of students.
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Food insecurity is a problem “hidden in our society that people don’t like to talk about,” according to Jim Henderson, president of the University of Louisiana System.
“I could work 300 hours during the summer and pay for my entire college tuition the following year when I was a student,” Henderson said.
“Today, a student would need to work about 2,000 hours merely to pay for tuition and expenses to attend school.”
The bill introduced by Frieberg will be debated on the House floor.