All private public nonprofit colleges in Minnesota now eligible for state funding for food insecurity – The Minnesota Daily

Colleges can charge up to $ 8,000 to start pantries, organize educational events, and create task forces to reduce food insecurity.

University of Minnesota Now Eligible to Apply for State Funding to Address Food Insecurity and Receive “Hunger Free Campus” Designation After Gov. Tim Walz Signed Revised Hunger Free Campus Act , initially adopted in 2019, into law on June 26.

As part of Walz’s group of higher education funding bills, all public and private nonprofit colleges in Minnesota are eligible to apply for up to $ 8,000 in grants to start anti-wrestling programs. against food insecurity on their campuses and receive the “campus without hunger”. the designation. Schools with the highest number of students eligible for the Pell Grant will be given priority for funding.

Schools are considered for the “hunger free” designation if they meet five criteria. They must have a pantry established on campus; inform likely eligible students that they are eligible for benefits such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP); organize a hunger awareness day or event each academic year; have an emergency scholarship program to help food insecure students; and establish a working group on hunger.

The designation was originally drafted in 2019 by LeadMN, a student-led organization that represents two-year students in Minnesota. The designation was accepted, but only included state community and technical colleges and did not include funding to help schools start programs.

“What was really interesting about not having the money was that we saw that [the designation] was always effective, ”said Matt Gutsch, director of government relations for LeadMN.

Through follow-up assessments, LeadMN found that schools were opening pantries, creating coalitions for basic needs, and organizing educational events to meet the five requirements for being “hungry free” even without funding. The designation outlined tangible steps colleges need to take to address food insecurity, Gutsch said.

In March, Senator Aric Putnam, DFL-St. Cloud, reintroduced a revised version of the bill in the Minnesota Senate, calling for all private, public and nonprofit colleges to be eligible for the designation.

Along with student activists from organizations such as LeadMN and Swipe Out Hunger, an organization dedicated to addressing food insecurity on college campuses nationwide, Putnam also asked the State Office of Higher Education to include a funding for schools to launch and maintain programs to help meet the five criteria to be considered “hungry free”.

The revised bill now includes appropriations – over $ 300,000 – for schools in Minnesota to apply for grants.

“In the state legislature it’s like a drop in their budget bucket, but it’s a win because you can work from there,” said Rebecca Leighton, advocacy specialist. health at Boynton Health and founder of Nutritious U. Pantry at University. “You are not starting from scratch now. In the years to come, we can go back and say, “Look at the success of this, can we get more money? And so you cultivate it.

The revised bill also changes the wording of food aid programs, instructing schools to notify students employed in work-study programs that they may be eligible for programs such as SNAP. Less than 40% of students eligible for the SNAP program receive nutritional benefits.

In 2019, Leighton implemented a program to screen students for SNAP eligibility and connect them with University resources. Since the program began, Leighton and his team have connected nearly 2,000 students to SNAP resources.

Impact of Funding on Minnesota Colleges

According to Boynton Health’s 2018 College Student Health Survey, 17.4% of college students said they were worried if their food would run out before they had the money to buy more.

However, in large part thanks to Leighton’s work to launch programs at the University such as Nutritious U, the University already meets the criteria set out in the Hunger Free Campus Act, according to Sam Parmekar, a recent graduate of the University and the outgoing state government coordinator for the Minnesota Student Association.

Parmekar also said he hoped the financial incentive would encourage institutions to apply for the designation.

” We hope that [the funding] will encourage more schools to meet the criteria and of course with the funding available that means many smaller schools like our community, technical and tribal colleges will get some of this financial assistance in order to meet those criteria Said Parmekar mentioned.

It’s also important that many colleges in Minnesota are now eligible for funding, as many students move from two-year to four-year institutions, according to Gutsch.

“This food insecurity is transferred with them,” Gutsch said. “It doesn’t matter if they are at Normandale Community College and go to St. Cloud State or the [University]. If they were food insecure before, they will probably still be food insecure. “

Leighton also said she hoped the bill would start discussions on food insecurity and pave the way for future legislation.

“It’s the logistics – it’s just money that’s good, but it also means state lawmakers understand that students are hungry. It’s the biggest win for me here, ”said Leighton. “Money is important, it needs to grow, we need more resources, and one way to do this is to get state legislators to recognize that this is a problem. This is a great first step towards a systemic resolution of this problem.

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