(BOSTON) – This week, Representative Joan Meschino (D-Hull) joined the Massachusetts Hunger Free Campus Coalition, Senator Harriette Chandler (D-Worcester), Senator Joan Lovely (D-Salem), Representative Andy Vargas (D-Haverhill), and Representative Mindy Domb (D-Amherst) for a press conference in support of legislation (H.1368/S.2811) that will establish a hunger-free campus program. 

The bill would create an Office of Capacity Building Services within the Massachusetts Department of Higher Education to offer funding, technical assistance, and grant opportunities to campuses that hope to address food insecurity. The legislation will also incentivize campuses to leverage existing resources and maximize enrollment in federal nutrition programs. Additionally, the bill will push campuses to create student-led food insecurity task forces designed to explore anti-hunger initiatives that can be considered for grant funding.

Representative Joan Meschino (D-Hull) supports this bill as a logical next step following her successful advocacy for legislation she filed with Senator Lovely, An Act establishing a community college campus hunger pilot program (H.1350/S.847.)  The $2.7 million called for in H.1350 was included in the ARPA bill passed in late 2021, and the money will go toward establishing a noncompetitive grant program that will fund state community colleges’ pilot initiatives to tackle hunger.

A 2019 HOPE Center report on Massachusetts public college students found that 37% of public university students in Massachusetts are food insecure.  Among food insecure students, Black, Latinx, and LGBTQ+ students experience food insecurity at disproportionately higher rates than their white counterparts. Additionally, multiple studies and surveys have also confirmed that food insecurity is linked to lower attendance rates, lower GPAs, greater likelihood of withdrawing from school, and lower overall graduation rates. 

“Individuals focused on earning a degree should not have to worry about how to keep a roof over their heads or how to feed themselves. Simply put, their basic needs deserve to be met,” said Representative Meschino (D-Hull). “This legislation is critical to addressing student hunger on college campuses and supporting all our students in their efforts to build a better future for themselves and their families.”

The Hunger-Free Campus bill was reported favorably by the Joint Committee on Higher Education and now awaits action by the House Committee on Ways and Means. For more on the legislation, visit the MA Hunger Free Campus Coalition’s website.

Rep. Meschino during MA Hunger Free Campus Coalition Press Conference June 1, 2022