March 18, 2021

The Enhanced Access to SNAP Act (EATS Act), introduced by Representatives Jimmy Gomez (D-CA), Josh Harder (D-CA), and Jimmy Panetta (D-CA), would put college students with lower incomes on an equal footing with other people who would be eligible to participate in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). Under H.R. 1919, SNAP would no longer condition eligibility for most people attending college at least half time on performing work study or 20 hours or more per week of outside employment. (Students would still need to meet the income and other qualifications that all SNAP applicants must satisfy.)

This permanent law change is warranted and long overdue. A large body of research documents that food insecurity is a significant problem in terms of prevalence and consequences among college students, especially students of color, lower-income students, older students, and students who are parents. Food insecurity not only undermines the mental and physical health of college students, but it also has detrimental impacts on their academic performance and ability to complete their degree. 

To make matters worse, college students struggling against hunger face many barriers in accessing the food assistance they need. The current SNAP eligibility rules for college students, regarding work study or employment in particular, are counterproductive — too often limiting access to this important and effective program at a time when they are trying to improve their economic well-being by earning a higher education.

While temporary exemptions to the general SNAP college student eligibility bar will ease access during the COVID-19 public health emergency, the EATS Act would permanently ensure more equitable SNAP access for low-income college students and allow SNAP to more fully respond to economic need. The EATS Act also promotes important societal goals. Higher education pursuit and completion are increasingly important for an individual’s long-term economic success and well-being, which, in turn, contribute to gains for an individual’s community and the nation. 

Join FRAC in urging Members of Congress to support the EATS Act and to add their names to the list of its co-sponsors.