February 23, 2017

Sens. Warren, Markey, Murray and Stabenow Request GAO Study on Food Insecurity at American Colleges and Universities

Text of senators' letter available here (PDF)

Washington, D.C. - U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Senator Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), Ranking Member of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee Patty Murray (D-Wash.), and Ranking Member of the Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry Committee Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) today asked the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to conduct a study on food insecurity at American colleges and universities.

"Sacrificing food for education can undermine a student's educational goals and create barriers on their path to obtaining a certificate, degree, or credential," the senators wrote in their letter to the GAO. "This situation raises concern and deserves greater scrutiny."

The senators cite recent anecdotal studies indicating that a large number of American college students experience food insecurity - including roughly half of community college students - and note that many higher education intuitions have implemented programs on their campuses to help prevent students from going hungry.

The letter asks the GAO to examine the extent of food insecurity at the nation's colleges and universities; barriers to addressing food insecurity among college students; existing local, state and federal programs to assist low-income college students experiencing food insecurity, their effectiveness, and potential improvements that can be made to these programs; and examples of the best practices and strategies already being used to mitigate the problem at colleges and universities.

In Massachusetts, 13 community colleges, several state colleges, and multiple University of Massachusetts campuses operate food pantries on campus or have formal partnerships with local food pantries to help feed students affected by campus hunger.

"The prevalence of food insecurity on our campus, and on campuses across the state, is a huge concern. For some of our students, it is a daily struggle to decide whether to spend their last dollars on food or on the subway to get to class," said Dr. Pam Eddinger, President of Bunker Hill Community College, which hosts a mobile food pantry every month. "We need to do more to ensure that our students' basic needs are met so that they can focus on completing their degrees and working towards a better future."

A copy of the senators' letter to the GAO can be found here.