Chapter 15A of the General Laws is hereby amended by adding the following after Section 44:
Section 45: Hunger-Free Campus Program
A. HUNGER-FREE CAMPUS INITIATIVE: CAPACITY BUILDING SERVICES
1. The Department of Higher Education (DHE) shall establish an initiative known as the Hunger-Free Campus Initiative to address college student food insecurity and hunger across all public higher education campuses. This initiative may also be available to certain not-for-profit campuses that disproportionately serve low-income students as determined by the Hunger Free Campus Program office. DHE shall establish an office of capacity building services (to be known hereafter as “the office”), whose mission is to support institutions of public higher education, to build their capacity to understand and address existing gaps in addressing student food insecurity and hunger on their campus, using interventions that reflect best practices. The office shall assist public higher education campuses to be designated as a “Hunger-Free Campus” as delineated below and to meet the eligibility for Hunger-Free Campus grants. In addition, the office administers the Hunger-Free Campus Grant Program.
2. The office will develop and deliver technical assistance to assist the 29 public higher education campuses to engage in activities and implement interventions that reflect best practices that a) raise awareness on resources available to address basic food needs, b) leverage existing infrastructure and maximize current federal programs, and c) build strategic partnerships at the federal, state, and local levels to mitigate food insecurity among students. Technical assistance will support the knowledge, skills, and comfort the campuses need in order to deliver services as part of this program. Technical assistance may include (1) resource and materials development, (2) consultation, (3) training, (4) network development and support, and (5) the statewide Hunger-Free Campus grant program to support campus efforts to implement measurable, sustainable, and equitable interventions to address the basic food needs of college students in the Commonwealth.
3. The office will also administer and advise the Commissioner of the Department of Higher Education on the Hunger-Free Campus Grant Program. The Hunger-Free Campus grants will be awarded to sustain efforts by institutions to implement measurable, sustainable, and equitable solutions to address the basic food needs of college students in the Commonwealth.
4. The office of capacity building services shall submit a report on common themes and best practices for increasing food security resources available to students to the Commissioner of the Department of Higher Education as well as the Chairs and Vice Chairs of the Joint Committee on Higher Education no later than two years after the passage of this act.
B. DESIGNATION AS A HUNGER-FREE CAMPUS
The Hunger-Free Campus Initiative will partner with public higher education campuses and certain not-for-profit campuses that disproportionately serve low-income students to support implementation of interventions that meet the aforementioned goals including the following five anti-hunger activities. Completion of the following five initiatives in each academic year will earn the campus the designation of a Hunger-Free Campus.
Such designation will qualify institutions to apply for Hunger-Free Campus grants to support their work in addition to demonstrating public recognition of their efforts. Initial designation is for two years, with annual renewal thereafter.
Campus anti-hunger activities can utilize the initiative’s capacity building services and could include:
(1)Institutions will designate one staff person to be the Hunger-Free Campus Coordinator. The Coordinator will be the contact person with the Hunger-Free Campus Program Office and oversee the institution’s activities.
(2)Institutions shall establish a Hunger-Free Campus Task Force. The Task Force determines the priority activities for the campus for the academic year and can also engage in multi-year campus planning. The Task Force includes, but is not limited to, two or more students with lived experience of food insecurity, a faculty member, a member of the health services staff, a member of the student services staff, a member of the campus dining or food services staff, and a representative from a local hunger-relief organization. The Task Force shall meet a minimum of three times per academic year in order to establish goals, action plans, and engage in program planning.
(3)Institutions will determine mechanisms to notify students who receive need-based financial aid of their potential eligibility to receive Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits, Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) benefits, and other federal and state nutrition benefits available to said student or dependents. Mechanisms can include submitting such notification in all financial aid award letters and through financial aid portals available to students. Institutions will make such notification.
(4)Institutions will conduct an annual hunger awareness activity in concert with other statewide and national anti-hunger events.
(5)Institutions will assess the need to provide access to on-campus food distribution, or to a local off-campus food pantry, or to an on-campus food pantry.
C. HUNGER-FREE CAMPUS (HFC) GRANTS – ELIGIBLE ACTIVITIES
Subject to available resources at the institution, the Department of Higher Education shall consider awarding Hunger-Free Campus grants to institution's that have been designated Hunger-Free Campuses and can demonstrate progress or commitment to implementing one or more of the following anti-hunger initiatives:
1. The development of a student meal credit sharing program in which students can utilize either unused or donated meal swipes from other students in prepaid meal programs.
2. The establishment of a campus basic needs emergency fund to support students in crisis with emergency expenses associated with but not limited to food, shelter, utilities, and childcare. Such fund will include policies of administration, ways to access, and an identified administration contact.
3. The designation of one or more staff persons whose responsibility is to assist food insecure students access nutrition and other basic needs resources, subject to appropriation.
4. The dissemination of an anonymous brief campus-wide annual survey in which students are asked about their experience with food insecurity; their access to anti-hunger campus resources; awareness and access to Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) benefits. Such questions could be included in other campus-wide surveys.
5. The commitment of on-campus meal vendors to become Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) vendors under the Restaurant Meal Program (RMP) under the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) in order to allow students who are homeless and students with disabilities to use their SNAP benefits to access hot meals.
6. The establishment of an on-campus food pantry.
The Department of Higher Education will establish a grant making process for public higher education campuses and certain not-for-profit campuses that disproportionately serve low-income students, including an application that clarifies eligibility. Following implementation of the award, recipients will be expected to provide basic information to the Department of Higher Education on how the award was used, its deliverables and outcomes.
D. HUNGER-FREE CAMPUS GRANTS ADMINISTRATION
1. Grantmaking – Upon recommendation by the Hunger Free Campus Program staff, the Commissioner of Higher Education shall allocate funding to institutions designated as Hunger-Free Campuses as provided under subsection [B]. The Commissioner of Higher Education, or a designee, shall determine the amount of each grant which shall be used by the institution to address food insecurity among its students in accordance with this initiative. The Department will also establish reporting guidelines for recipients that will support the Department’s need for information as identified below.
These grants are available only to public higher education campuses and certain not-for-profit campuses that disproportionately serve low-income students as determined by the Hunger Free Campus Program office.
E. HUNGER-FREE CAMPUS PROGRAM AND GRANT FUND
The Hunger-Free Campus Program and Grant Fund is established as a special fund in the Department of Higher Education. The following shall apply to the operation of the fund:
(1) Money in the fund shall be appropriated annually to the Department of Higher Education for the purpose of awarding grants under this section.
(2) The sum of $1,000,000 shall be transferred from the General Fund to the Hunger-Free Campus Program and Grant Fund to be used exclusively for the Hunger-Free Campus Program.
1. The Department of Higher Education shall submit an annual report by July 1 on the Hunger-Free Campus Grant Program for the preceding fiscal year to the Governor and the Joint Committee on Higher Education Chairs. The report will be known as the “annual report”.
2. The annual report shall include a review of activities resulting from the Hunger-Free Campus program, including: a) identifying the institutions participating in the Hunger-Free Campus program; 2) describing the activities that have occurred on participating campuses in response to hunger and food insecurity in students; 3) the level of student engagement in activities; and 4) the outcomes resulting from activities.
3. The annual report shall also provide information on hunger-free campus grantmaking, including: a) the number and amounts of the grant awards, b) the recipients of such awards; c) the activities supported by awards; d) the impact of the Hunger-Free Campus Initiative and its grants on the participation of institutions in the Hunger-Free Campus designation and in reducing the number of students experiencing food insecurity; and e) recommendations on the future and potential expansion of the Hunger-Free Campus Grant Program.
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