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Bill establishing hunger-free campus grant program gains committee approval

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The Assembly Human Services Committee approved legislation Thursday sponsored by Benjie Wimberly, D-35th District; Mila Jasey, D-37th District; Raj Mukherji, D-33rd District; and Yvonne Lopez, D-19th District, to create a program to provide grants to colleges that are designated by the Secretary of Higher Education as hunger-free campuses.

According to Assembly Bill 4702, the grant funding addresses hunger by leveraging more sustainable solutions to address basic food needs on campus; raising awareness of services currently offered on college campuses to address basic food needs; and continuing to build strategic partnerships at the local, state and national levels to address food insecurity among students.

To be deemed a hunger-free campus, an institution is required to establish a hunger task force that meets a minimum of three times per academic year and sets at least two goals with action plans, designate a staff member responsible for assisting students with enrollment in the New Jersey Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, provide options for students to utilize SNAP benefits at campus stores, and provide at least one physical food pantry on campus, or enable students to receive food through a separate, stigma-free arrangement, according to the bill.

The secretary of Higher Education would determine the amount of each grant that will be used by the institutions to further address food insecurity among enrolled students.

The secretary would be required to submit a report to the governor and Legislature no later than two years after the establishment of the Hunger-Free Campus Grant Program and include information on the number and amounts of grant awards, the impact the program has had on establishing additional hunger-free campuses at public institutions of higher education and reducing the number of students experiencing food insecurity, and recommendations on the expansion of the grant program.

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David Hutter

David Hutter

David Hutter grew up in Darien, Conn., and covers higher education, transportation and manufacturing for NJBIZ. He can be reached at dhutter@njbiz.com.

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