Washington, D.C. – Department of Human Services (DHS) Secretary Teresa Miller joined advocates and researchers Wednesday to discuss hunger on college campuses and how the Wolf Administration is addressing hunger among students in Pennsylvania. The briefing, which was sponsored by MAZON: A Jewish Response to Hunger and the Hope Center for College, Community, and Justice and hosted by the offices of Sens. Ed Markey, Patty Murray, Debbie Stabenow, and Elizabeth Warren, followed the release of a national report on the issue of food insecurity among college students.
“We all know the costs associated with college – tuition, books, and supplies – but that is just the beginning. A person still has to afford their housing, transportation, and other basic needs like food,” said Secretary Miller. “When a person pursues higher education, even at a part-time level, that takes time away from working to afford basic needs. This can force people to make hard decisions and sacrifices to make ends meet.”
In January 2018, DHS announced a change to Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) eligibility requirements for community college students. Under the new policy, community college students enrolled at least part-time and in a qualifying career or technical education program under the Carl D. Perkins Vocation and Technical Education Act or a program preparing students for a high-priority occupation may receive SNAP benefits if they otherwise qualify for the program. Examples of high-priority occupations set by the Department of Labor & Industry include jobs in technology, education, health care, human services, law enforcement, and skilled trades.
Before the policy change, individuals who were attending school had to meet exemptions such as working more than 20 hours a week, caring for a child under the age of 6, or having a medical barrier to employment in order to qualify for SNAP while attending school.
“Education is often essential to securing a family-sustaining job and reaching economic independence, and government should look for ways to support our constituents as they make this investment,” said Secretary Miller. “Higher education doesn’t just benefit the students themselves – it also benefits our communities, and our state’s economy, for years to come.”
The Blueprint was released in September 2016, to address hunger in PA, and as a response to Governor Wolf’s executive order establishing the Governor’s Food Security Partnership. The Partnership includes the departments of Aging, Agriculture, Community and Economic Development, Education, Health, and Human Services.
Since the release of the Blueprint, the Wolf Administration has worked toward the Blueprint’s goals of reducing hunger and food insecurity in Pennsylvania by:
- Allowing easier access to benefits through the myCOMPASS PA mobile app;
Increasing knowledge of summer feeding programs by mailing summer feeding postcards to all SNAP recipient households with children;
- Streamlining the SNAP application process for seniors;
- Increasing senior enrollment in SNAP by 10 percent since 2015;
- Awarding school breakfast mini-grants to 228 schools to expand alternative breakfast models;
- Making access to employment and training services easier by adding 11 SNAP training sites;
- Distributing 7.5 million pounds of food to more than 390,000 low-income households annually through the Pennsylvania Agricultural Surplus System;
- Receiving an additional $11.5 million in bonus SNAP funds to improve timeliness, reduce errors, and increase access to SNAP;
- Growing food security programs in the Medicaid system; and
Educating individuals and families on the necessary nutrition needed for a healthy life.
Other initiatives in the Blueprint include:
- Establishing a local food alliance in every county or region in Pennsylvania to combat hunger in their local communities;
- Increasing the SNAP participation rate from 90 percent of eligible Pennsylvanians to 98 percent or higher;
- Increasing the number of children benefiting from free and reduced-price meals during the school year (linked to nutrition programs in summer) from 20 percent to 30 percent;
- Increasing the number of eligible students benefiting from free and reduced priced school meals who participate in school breakfast from 47 percent in 2014-15 to 60 percent;
- Increasing the redemption rate for checks issued through the Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program from 308,000 to 340,000 checks annually;
- Expanding employment, training, and education opportunities for SNAP recipients;
- Easing access to information on resources for people experiencing food insecurity.
For more information on the Blueprint for a Hunger-Free Pennsylvania, click here.