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Ohio House bill targets college student food insecurity

Two Ohio state legislators introduced House Bill 590, the Hunger-Free Campus Act, which would establish the Hunger-Free Campus Grant Program, a $2.5 million appropriation that would provide grants to colleges and universities that have an established food pantry or want to open one.

Rep. Sean Brennan (D-Parma) of District 14 in the western Cleveland suburb and Rep. Dave Dobos (R-Columbus) introduced the bill May 15 and it was referred to the Finance Committee about a week later. The Finance Committee meets this week but HB590 is not on the agenda. In addition to establishing the grant program, it creates a “hunger-free campus” designation that will allow schools to seek additional grants and larger grant awards.

To qualify for the “hunger-free campus” designation, a school must match requirements under two conditions.

Condition 1 (schools must meet one of these two):

  • Provide free meals for students with demonstrated food insecurity or establish campus emergency funds
  • Establish an on-campus food pantry or charitable distribution

Condition 2 (schools must meet three of these five):

  • Share information on food assistance and basic needs security programs
  • Designate an on-campus employee as contact for information on food assistance and basic needs security programs
  • Notify individual students of potential eligibility to receive benefits under SNAP
  • Conduct campus-wide survey assessing student food security at least once every two years
  • Sponsor at least one event per semester to spread awareness and give information about services available to alleviate student hunger

The bill does not currently have sponsorship in the state Senate. House co-sponsors include Lauren McNally (D) from the Youngstown area, , Justin Pizzulli (R) from Scioto County, and C. Allison Russo from Upper Arlington.

Read the entire bill here:

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