New report spotlights college hunger

New report spotlights college hunger

The image of a traditional college student – a young adult enrolled full-time with no dependents, living on campus and depending on their parents for financial support – is belied by a very different reality. Nationally, 71 percent of undergraduates fit the definition of “non-traditional students,” and 39 percent of undergraduates come from families earning at or below 130 percent of the federal poverty level. Many of these students go hungry. A report released Wednesday by the Government Accountability Office highlights food insecurity as a significant problem, and outlines some systematic solutions. The Atlantic’s Adam Harris summarizes the findings:

It is the first time that the federal government has acknowledged food insecurity on campus in a significant way. The federal government spends billions of dollars on higher education each year, and this report finds that some students are at risk of dropping out because they cannot eat, although there aren’t good data on just how many. … One chief way that campuses have been addressing hunger is by building food pantries on campus, but Sara Goldrick-Rab, a professor of higher education at Temple University, one of the leading scholars on campus hunger, told me that those only scratch the surface of addressing the issue. “When there’s a food pantry, there’s somebody who is acknowledging the problem,” she says, but advocates have been fighting for a more systemic response. The government can address this issue systemically, the report says, through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), commonly known as food stamps, but the report says that “almost 2 million at-risk students”—defined as students who are low-income, first-generation, raising children, or have another similar risk factor— didn’t receive SNAP benefits in 2016 even though they … potentially could.


SNAP benefits secure through February
With the government shutdown entering its 19th day, many of the 400,000 Louisiana households that use federal food assistance to help keep food on the table may be growing concerned about the whether that vital benefit will be delivered on time. On Tuesday, however, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which administers the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), announced a solution for funding benefits, at least through February: release the money early. The Advocate’s Elizabeth Crisp has the details:

The Louisiana Department of Children and Family Services, which administers the federally funded food stamp program, had previously been told that benefits were guaranteed through January. Under the new plan described by (Agriculture Secretary Sonny) Perdue, the U.S. Department of Agriculture will work with states to implement an “early issuance” of February benefits to work around a federal funding deadline. Across the country, more than 19 million households receive SNAP benefits that could be impacted if there were a lapse in funding. Recipients should see no disruption in their benefits, even if the government remains shut down amid President Donald Trump’s standoff with congressional leaders over funding for a wall along the Mexican border. Trump is requesting more than $5 billion for the border wall, which is part of his attempt to curb illegal immigration.

71 percent of SNAP recipients in Louisiana are in a household with a minor child.


Gains in Louisiana’s economy should be broadly shared
Business leaders speaking at The Advocate’s 2019 Economic Summit on Tuesday offered an optimistic view of Louisiana’s economy, citing increased investment in oil and gas production and low electricity prices, among other positive factors. But inadequate state investments in human capital can be a drag on otherwise bountiful economic growth. As the Advocate’s editorial board argues, additional investments in infrastructure and education are needed for the state to fully realize economic opportunities.

Looking forward, the leaders gathered by The Advocate looked toward pro-growth policies beyond bricks and mortar. These include better funding for colleges and universities — “stable funding isn’t adequate funding,” noted LSU’s F. King Alexander — and generally a focus on workforce training and bringing new talents to Louisiana. Transportation difficulties matter to Emile Breaux, of Associated Grocers, having to deliver corn and peas to 200 grocery stores, but the disruption to traditional industries through technology is a matter for businesses across the board, several panelists said. Altogether, with the good news of economic improvements and capital investments, the fundamentals of education, transportation and technology remain what voters ought to seek commitments about when candidates come calling this year.

Growth for big business does not, by itself, improve the lives of struggling Louisianans. If the state’s economy is set to boom, it’s crucial that the Legislature makes sure that the benefits of a growing economy – supported by state investments – are shared equitably by all Louisianans. Asking corporations to pay their fair share of local property taxes and enacting a livable minimum wage would be steps in the right direction.

Confusion over Wayfair ruling

Louisiana’s nascent efforts to collect sales taxes on online purchases while complying with a U.S. Supreme Court ruling has sowed confusion among some retailers and local taxing authorities. As The Advocate’s Mark Ballard reports, the new Sales and Use Tax Commission for Remote Sellers was set up to collect online sales taxes in a streamlined way. But it’s being grafted onto an existing system – virtually unique to Louisiana – where local authorities are responsible for collecting their own portion of the sales tax. In the meantime, the state Department of Revenue is handling tax collections while the new commission gets established.

Local jurisdictions — about 370 of them — operate pretty much on their own. Their authority is in the constitution and has been upheld in several court decisions. School boards, municipal governments, law enforcement, parish police juries and other local taxing authorities rely on those revenues and set their own rates with voter approval. … (Dannie) Garret (who represents school boards) said local jurisdictions likely would oppose any effort to peel back their constitutional authority to collect sales taxes on their own. Local governments fear that the money that goes to pay for local services will be held up in Baton Rouge if the state collects and distributes the funds.


Number of the Day
29 percent – Proportion of US College Students who are low-income and experience at least one additional risk factor for food insecurity. 75 percent of all low-income students also have an additional risk-factor for food insecurity. (Source: GAO Report on College Food Insecurity)