Hunger Free Campus funding advances in state Senate

Legislation to expand Hunger-Free campus designations at Minnesota public colleges and universities and to fund grants to help campus groups provide food options for students in need was heard this week in the Senate Higher Education Finance and Policy Committee.

A Hunger-Free Campus designation for Minnesota State community and technical colleges was established in state law in 2019, but no money was appropriated. This bill also adds the University of Minnesota to the list of campus designation sites. The Office of Higher Education will administer the grants. An appropriation of $200,000 for the next two-year period was requested for the program.

During testimony, the committee members learned that today’s college student population has changed over the past few decades. They are older—45% are over 21 and 30 percent are parents. Of that 30 percent, 55% reported having experienced food insecurity. The Hope Center for College Community and Justice surveyed almost 10,000 students from 25 two-year and three four-year colleges in Minnesota and found that 37% of students had been food insecure the prior 30 days, 48% had been housing insecure the previous year, and 18% reported being homeless the previous year.

The bill would set up the Hunger Free campus designation requirements and grants would be provided to the campuses that met the requirements. The grants would be used for food pantries and other food emergency programs.

The bill was laid over for possible inclusion in the larger omnibus higher education funding bill. (SF 1103)