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CAFB Applauds Governor Newsom for Signing SB 641 Into Law!

September 30, 2022

Today, we are thrilled to share that Governor Newsom has signed SB 641 (Skinner) into law, which will continue to remove barriers for college students seeking CalFresh food assistance. Along with more than 60 partner organizations representing college students and food insecure communities across California, we are grateful for the Legislature and Governor’s commitment to ensuring that all college students have the food they need to thrive. 

We are especially thankful to Senator Skinner for her unwavering leadership and years of advocacy on behalf of low-income college students. California has been at the forefront  in the fight against college hunger for years, from passing the first known state legislation to combat college hunger, to rallying behind the Federal EATS Act introduced in the House of Representatives by Representative Jimmy Gomez (D-CA) to remove barriers for full-time students to receive aid in the program.  

“Too many California college students face hunger every day. Now that Gov. Newsom has signed SB 641, the application barriers and red tape that kept low-income college students from accessing CalFresh benefits will be gone, giving more students access to healthy meals and the ability to focus on their studies rather than worrying about their next meal,” said state Sen. Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley, who is chair of the Senate Budget and Fiscal Review Committee.

SB 641 will allow California’s policy leaders to continue toward an end to college student hunger, by fully leveraging the federal funds available through the CalFresh program:

  • It will codify guidance issued pursuant to the College Hunger Working Group established by AB 1930 (Skinner, 2014), such as requiring the Department of Social Services (DSS) to maintain and update a list of programs that would exempt them from student eligibility rules. 
  • It will require DSS to convene a workgroup to identify the steps necessary to establish a CalFresh application submission process that can accommodate the large influx of applications received during the beginning of a college term in counties where significant numbers of students reside.
  • It will require the DSS to submit a report to the state estimating additional funds needed to adequately and timely serve all college students currently eligible for CalFresh benefits.

College students in California go hungry at an alarming rate. The Legislative Analyst’s Office (LAO) reports that 44% of undergraduates and 26% of graduate students in California experience food insecurity. These numbers are even worse for community college students. College students who have limited access to nutritional resources experience negative impacts on their academic career and are more likely to drop out before graduating. In 2019, California’s college student hunger rate was 10% higher than the national average.

Compounding this already problematic reality is that COVID-19 has worsened hunger among higher education students, with nearly 1 in 4 students becoming less food secure, on top of existing food insecurity, with deep disparities for racial and ethnic minority students. From the high school graduating class of 2021, who have already lost so much and will face great uncertainty as they enter college, to college students hoping to graduate this spring in an economy that has been shaken to the bone, our country’s college students are suffering great losses during the COVID-19 pandemic. The setbacks will be even more significant for those students who are low-income or the first in their families to attend college.

“In light of these harsh realities felt by college students all across California today, we are heartened that our Legislature and Governor are taking every opportunity to enact policies and solutions that will help us to achieve the hunger-free California that we know is possible.” said Becky Silva, director of government relations at the California Association of Food Banks

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