New bill would require federal data collection on food, housing insecurity

Senator Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) last week introduced a new bill that seeks to shed light on hunger and homelessness among college students by requiring the federal government to collect data on food and housing insecurity, The Atlantic reports.

Critics of previous research on campus food insecurity have pointed to low survey response rates, variations in definitions of insecurity, and survey design flaws in order to discount the findings. Sen. Murphy’s new bill, along with companion legislation sponsored by Representatives Jahana Hayes (D-Conn.) and Marcia Fudge (D-Ohio), aims to remove doubts about the data’s validity by adding questions about campus food and housing to the National Postsecondary Student Aid Study, a comprehensive government-run survey of how students pay for college.

“This bill is important so that we have a real, consistent national window on where student hunger is happening, where it’s the worst, and [which] schools are creating interventions that make a difference,” Murphy told The Atlantic. “And until you standardize the data, you can’t really compare interventions.”

Connecting food-insecure students with SNAP

The bill would also address campus food insecurity by directing the secretary of education and government agencies to reach out to the nearly 2 million “at-risk” students who are potentially eligible for—but do not currently receive—Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits, also known as food stamps.

It would also put pressure on colleges to help address food insecurity on their campuses. “When schools all of a sudden have to report on food-insecurity rates, they will become more interested in finding ways to make students less food-insecure,” Senator Murphy told The Atlantic. “And the easiest and most cost-effective way for schools to reduce food insecurity is to get more of their kids signed up for SNAP if they’re eligible.”

However, observers question whether the standalone bill will gain traction amid a divided Congress with its sights set on a larger reauthorization of the Higher Education Act.

Murphy says he hopes the legislation has a chance, pointing to hunger’s deleterious effects on college completion. As Sara Goldrick-Rab of Temple University told The Atlantic earlier this year, in choosing to ignore food insecurity, “we’re undermining our federal investment in financial aid.”


Georgetown University has launched an on-campus food pantry to support members of the university community experiencing food insecurity. Located on the fourth floor of the university’s Leavey student center, the Hoya Hub is available to all undergraduate and graduate students, as well as faculty and staff members. The team working on the pantry hopes the project will eventually grow to encompass additional programming and other aspects of food insecurity.

Interested in supporting the Hoya Hub food pantry? Donations will be used to purchase non-perishable food items, grocery gift cards, shelving, and storage containers to create a safe and sustainable resource for the Georgetown University community. Give to the Hoya Hub.

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