Thursday, July 25, 2024

Louisiana rolls out hunger-free campus designation program 

by BIZ Magazine

By Piper Hutchinson, Louisiana Illuminator

The Louisiana Board of Regents approved Wednesday the designation of every public college and university and four private universities in Louisiana as hunger-free campuses. 

A 2020 study indicates that approximately 29% of students at four-year colleges and 38% at two-year schools in the U.S. experience food insecurity. The numbers are substantially higher for students of color. 

Research shows hungry students have lower GPAs and struggle more to earn their degree than students who know where their next meal is coming from. 

Louisiana’s hunger-free campus program was created in 2022 by Act 719, which was sponsored by state Rep. Barbara Freiberg, R-Baton Rouge, a former public school teacher. 

In order to qualify for the designation, schools must establish a Hunger-Free Task Force, inform students who receive need-based aid of their potential eligibility to receive SNAP benefits, hold or participate in at least one anti-hunger awareness events per academic year, assess the need to provide access to on-campus food distribution, a local off-campus food pantry or an on-campus food pantry, and supply certain information related to anti-hunger efforts to the Board of Regents. 

“We are scratching the surface of what needs to be done for our students,” Freiberg told the board. “So this is just minimum requirements.” 

Four private universities that received the designation are Centenary College in Shreveport, Franciscan Missionaries of Our Lady University in Lake Charles, Loyola University New Orleans and Tulane University. 

The designation is valid until 2024, when schools will have to reapply. 

Regents will also roll out a grant program to aid schools in advancing their anti-hunger efforts. While some schools have extensive programs in place, others have very limited resources and could benefit from state aid to expand their food pantries to provide perishable food items. 

The board has some seed money to start the grant program, but Freiberg said she plans to file legislation next year, if re-elected, to provide additional funding.

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