Edison, NJ - At an event on Monday, held at the Middlesex County College campus in Edison, New Jersey Human Services Commissioner Carole Johnson announced that the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) will be expanded to students in community college career and technical education programs. According to the Council on County Colleges, in 2017, 67,000 students were enrolled in these career and technical education programs, with an estimated 45 percent considered low-income based on financial aid records.
“SNAP is the first line of defense against hunger,” Ms. Johnson said. “Governor Murphy is committed to building a stronger New Jersey for everyone, including those working to improve their lives through higher education. Hunger is often a focus this time of year, but it’s a year-round problem for far too many people, including students who too often are forced to worry about food instead of their studies. Students learning employable skills in New Jersey’s community colleges should not be left behind when it comes to this crucial nutritional assistance program.”
National surveys have found that as high as 40 percent of community college students reporting food insecurity, meaning a lack of reliable access to sufficient quantities of affordable, nutritious food. Ms. Johnson referred to the issue as a hidden crisis on college campuses.
Anti-hunger advocates and higher education officials joined in the announcement, which will result in the expansion of food assistance to these students. “Food and education work hand in hand providing help and hope as our neighbors strive to define success for themselves,” said Carlos Rodriguez, president and CEO for the Community FoodBank of New Jersey. “We look forward to working with the administration on this important policy change and create awareness across our network of pantries, including campus pantries across New Jersey.”
“Students in community colleges often face a myriad of challenges and obstacles that hinder their ability to stay in college and complete a degree,” said Middlesex County College Interim President Dr. Mark McCormick. “Initiatives like this one help mitigate potential barriers to students’ success and will make it possible for more community college students to achieve their educational goals.”
In January this year, Middlesex County College opened a food pantry for students. Students in need can visit the pantry, located at the College Center, room 170B, during its scheduled hours on Mondays from 11:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. and Thursdays from 2:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m.
One of the ways college students can be eligible for SNAP is if they are at least half-time students participating in a state-recognized employment and training program. Under the new policy, State will now recognize all approved Career and Technical Education Programs at New Jersey community colleges as eligible SNAP employment and training programs. Students who meet SNAP income eligibility standards and participate in these training programs will now have access to this critical food assistance. The change will be effective in early December.