Students and advocates from the Hunger Free Campus Coalition came to Beacon Hill for our legislative hearing and Day of Awareness on September 18 – and policymakers and allies listened.
In the morning, members of the HFCC testified in front of the Joint Committee on Higher Education in support of “An Act Establishing the Massachusetts Hunger Free Campus Initiative” (S835 / H1293). The bill would create a grant program within the Department of Higher Education to enable community colleges, public universities, and minority-serving institutions in Massachusetts to address hunger on campus.
HFCC members discussed their lived experience as students, campus staff, and social service providers grappling with the effects of college hunger. “Some of my friends have expressed anxiety and embarrassment for finding themselves painfully hungry,” said Mikael Killian, a student at UMass Boston. “Hunger and poverty in the Commonwealth can be sources of shame and also have significant impacts on students’ health and cognitive development.” They called on the Legislature to take bold action to ensure students have the food they need to succeed in college.
After the hearing, the HFCC met with Department of Higher Education Commissioner, Noe Ortega, to amplify student voices and to share gratitude for the Department’s stewardship of the Hunger Free Campus Initiative so far. In his remarks, Commissioner Ortega expressed his vision to make the Commonwealth’s campuses more inclusive, including through combatting student poverty. “To ensure that every learner in the Commonwealth is successful,” he stated to the HFCC, “we must begin by addressing their basic needs which are going to impact their success.”
In the afternoon, HFCC members met with their legislators to drum up support for the bipartisan Hunger Free Campus legislation and to ensure that policymakers understand both the toll that hunger takes on Massachusetts’ campuses and the potential for the legislation to positively impact students in need.
Since 2019, the HFCC has been working to pass legislation to combat college hunger in Massachusetts. Thanks to hard work by students, community organizations, campus staff, and allies, the time to change the Commonwealth’s campuses is closer than ever. Continue to reach out to legislators and to support the HFCC in this crucial period!