EDISON – The Murphy Administration was joined Nov. 19 by anti-hunger advocates and higher education officials to announce it was expanding food assistance to career and technical education students at community colleges.
According to a release, during a visit to Middlesex County College, which earlier this year opened a food pantry for students, New Jersey Human Services Commissioner Carole Johnson stated the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) would be available to students in community college career and technical education programs.
In response to what has been called a hidden crisis on college campuses, Johnson noted the Department of Human Services earlier this year met with advocates from Hunger Free New Jersey to discuss how to address food insecurity among college students, expand SNAP eligibility for college students, and raise awareness of food assistance on college campuses.
The department also engaged with the Council of County Colleges and the Office of the Secretary of Higher Education to increase college student participation in SNAP.
National surveys have found that as high as 40 percent of community college students reporting food insecurity, meaning a lack of reliable access to sufficient quantities of affordable, nutritious food.
“SNAP is the first line of defense against hunger,” Johnson stated. “Gov. Murphy is committed to building a stronger New Jersey for everyone, including those working to improve their lives through higher education. Hunger is often a focus this time of year, but it’s a year-round problem for far too many people, including students who too often are forced to worry about food instead of their studies. Students learning employable skills in New Jersey’s community colleges should not be left behind when it comes to this crucial nutritional assistance program.”
Johnson noted, “For many families college affordability includes not just tuition, but ensuring access to essentials like food and child care.”
“This administration is committed to helping New Jersey’s families, whether it’s by investing in access to quality and affordable childcare that helps allow students to attend classes or by providing this expanded and vital food assistance for eligible career and technical education students. For many students, these steps will make a tremendous difference.”
“Students in community colleges often face a myriad of challenges and obstacles that hinder their ability to stay in college and complete a degree,” stated Middlesex County College Interim President Dr. Mark McCormick. “Initiatives like this one help mitigate potential barriers to students’ success and will make it possible for more community college students to achieve their educational goals.”
“We are thrilled that the Murphy Administration is taking this important step to address hunger among college students,’’ stated Adele LaTourette, director of Hunger Free New Jersey. “We know that many students face hunger and are forced to make the terrible choice between staying in school and having enough to eat. Now, more New Jersey students can receive SNAP, giving them a much better chance of completing their education and going on to land higher-paying jobs.’’
“Food and education work hand in hand providing help and hope as our neighbors strive to define success for themselves,” stated Carlos Rodriguez, president and CEO for the Community FoodBank of New Jersey. “We look forward to working with the administration on this important policy change and create awareness across our network of pantries, including campus pantries across New Jersey.”
“The expansion of SNAP eligibility to individuals enrolled in career and technical education programs is a significant step forward that will build on the current efforts of community colleges to reduce hunger on our campuses,” stated New Jersey Council of County Colleges President Aaron R. Fichtner, Ph.D. “We thank the Department of Human Services for working with community colleges to help more individuals get on and stay on a path to a successful career.”
Dr. Zakiya Smith Ellis, New Jersey’s Secretary of Higher Education, noted that food insecurity is a “hidden challenge” of college affordability.
“College affordability is not about more than just tuition and fees,” Smith Ellis said. “Students struggle to pay for living costs as well. In a traditional setting this is often referred to as ‘room and board’, but most students don’t live on campus and low-income students still need support to meet these basic needs. I’m glad to partner with Commissioner Johnson and the higher education community on this important work to expand benefits to students.”
One of the ways college students can be eligible for SNAP is if they are at least half-time students participating in a state-recognized employment and training program. The Murphy Administration will now recognize all approved Career and Technical Education Programs at New Jersey community colleges as eligible SNAP employment and training programs. Students who meet SNAP income eligibility standards and participate in these training programs will now have access to this critical food assistance.
In 2017, 67,000 students were enrolled in these career and technical education programs, with an estimated 45 percent considered low-income based on financial aid records, according to the Council on County Colleges.
The change will be effective in early December.