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Food Security Bill for College Students Advances in California

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The California Assembly’s Human Services committee has cleared a food security bill to provide nutritious food to low-income college students.

Introduced by Senator Bill Dodd (D-Napa) and supported by the California Welfare Directors Association, the County of Yolo, and various student groups, Senate Bill 173 cleared the Assembly committee with a unanimous vote. It will next head to Appropriations.

The bill proposes to address the problem by streamlining the application process and removing barriers college students commonly face when enrolling in Cal Fresh, nationally known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).

“Students shouldn’t have to starve in order to get an education,” Dodd said in a statement. “Hunger is a serious problem on California college campuses today. My bill will ensure students of modest means don’t go hungry by making it easier for them to receive public assistance.”

The bill would require the State Department of Social Services to create a standardized form to be used by community colleges and universities to verify that a student possesses state or federal work study for the purpose of assisting county human services agencies in determining the student’s potential eligibility for CalFresh on or before January 1, 2021.

Furthermore, county human services agencies and community colleges would be imposed with new duties.

“The Cal Fresh rules for students can be extremely limiting, forcing too many struggling college students to go hungry,” Cathy Senderling McDonald, deputy executive director of the California Welfare Directors Association, said. “County human services agencies hope this bill will help ease participation in the types of work-study programs that enable more students to become, and remain, eligible for this critical nutrition support program.”

A recent report by the Hope Center for College, Community, and Justice at Temple University in Philadelphia revealed that nearly half of California’s community college students experienced hunger in 2018. Those who face food insecurity include formerly incarcerated students, parents, divorced, former foster youth, African-American, LGBTQ or have served in the military.

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