MAZON wants to ensure that students—be they school-age or in college—have enough to eat. We are working to increase visibility on college hunger as a growing problem locally and nationally, and to ensure that low-income children have access to school lunch without shame or stigma.
Elevating the Issue of College Hunger
For too many college students, food insecurity is a crippling daily reality that means skipped meals, reduced portions, and the choiceless choice between eating and continued investment in their educational needs. All of this impacts student performance, retention, and health.
A recent study by our partners at WI Hope Lab found that 2 of every 3 community college students is food insecure—many of whom struggle even while working and receiving financial aid. A network of on-campus food pantries is growing, but this charitable response is not enough. Addressing student food insecurity requires broader institutional and government actions and more upstream responses. In particular, we must strengthen SNAP access for students.
We have crafted and advocated for legislation and administrative policies to improve access to benefits and programs for college students:
- In California, we sponsored and passed:
AB 214 (Weber) – improves access to federal anti-hunger benefits (CalFresh) for California’s low-income college students.
AB 453 (Limon) - encourages CA campuses to be designated “hunger free campus;” establish programs to address campus hunger, including meal point donation programs, food closets and assistance in CalFresh enrollment.
- In Massachusetts:
Partnered with Mass Law Reform Institute and Massachusetts Department of Transitional Assistance on outreach to 52,000 low-income MA students on SNAP benefits.
- In Congress:
Endorsed and supported H.R. 3875 “College Student Hunger Act of 2017” (Representative Al Lawson, FL).
Endorsed and supported H.R. 3742 “Fostering Success in Higher Education Act of 2017” (Representative Danny Davis, IL).
Additionally, we have:
- Successfully advocated for the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to review the extent of food insecurity among U.S. college and university students.
- Hosted a briefing on Capitol Hill to present the GAO report findings and discuss approaches to improving students' access to SNAP.
- Co-hosted a Town Hall on College Hunger and Homelessness at George Washington University in conjunction with release of national survey on hunger and homelessness on U.S. college campuses.
- Organized the first Legislative Briefing on College Hunger in America, cohosted by Representative Danny Davis (IL) and Representative Al Lawson Jr. (FL).
MAZON’s Leadership on Lunch Shaming
Nearly half of all school districts nationwide either refuse to serve lunches to children who can’t pay for them, substitute less nutritious meals, or even brand children with overdue lunch bills with markers, often stigmatizing those children in the process – a practice known as “lunch shaming.”
Through the MAZON Advocacy Project (MAP), MAZON, along with its partner Mid-Minnesota Legal Aid, launched the first successful effort to address this issue legislatively in 2014. The MAZON-sponsored bills SF 146 and HF 336 removed the mandatory school lunch co-payment for low-income Minnesota families, ensuring no child would ever be turned away from a school meal again and expanding the Minnesota State budget to support an additional 62,500 children in receiving free lunch. New Mexico has also recently passed an anti-shaming law, and California and Texas both have pending legislation to end public shaming of children. The practice, however, is vastly more widespread. Additional state and district-based work in dozens of states is required.
- MAZON supports the “No Shame at School Act," introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives by Representatives Ilhan Omar (MN-5), Ben Ray Lujan (NM-3), and Deb Haaland (NM-1). The bill makes significant strides to address the cruel ways that students are treated when their families are unable to pay for school meals.
- In California, co-sponsored and passed SB 250 (Hertzberg), making California the largest state yet to ban lunch shaming practices.
- Advised ongoing enforcement efforts in states that have successfully passed similar legislations in Minnesota, Oregon, and New Mexico.
- Collaborated on report on lunch shaming in Massachusetts.
- Drafted model legislation with Legal Advisory Council to eliminate shaming practices.
- Launched preliminary research efforts on legislations in Louisiana, Kansas, and New Jersey.