(Photo Courtesy of Action Network)
“A banner advertising the Hunger Free campus initiative in Massachusetts.”
On Monday, February 20, the Boston Intercollegiate Government (BIG) sent a letter to Governor Maura Healey, urging her to promote the implementation of the Fair Share Amendment. One of the crucial elements of the Fair Share Amendment is the Hunger Free Campus Initiative.
BIG is a coalition of Boston-area colleges, including representatives from Boston University, Berklee College of Music, Boston College, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Gordon College, UMass Boston, Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences, UMass Lowell, Northeastern University and Brandeis University. Representing UMass Lowell is SGA President Neydar Fernandez, who is also the vice chair of BIG.
The Hunger Free Campus Initiative aims to reduce food insecurity among college students. Regarding this issue, Fernandez said “With so many students living off campus and commuting, it’s hard to fully gauge the problem. Many of these students tend to fall through the cracks because they are either not aware or ineligible to access services on campus.”
While the Hunger Free Campus Initiative takes a look at the entire Boston-area region, there are specific plans in mind for how it will be implemented at UMass Lowell. “Here at UMass Lowell, [it] would mean more funds for our Meal Swipe Donation Program and Food Pantry. With support from the state to build up the university’s wellness initiatives focused on nutrition,” Fernandez said. Programs such as the Meal Swipe Donation Program and Food Pantry aim to help students struggling with food access to remain fed.
For now, the Hunger Free Campus Initiative remains a goal, not legislation. The letter they sent to Governor Healey looks to change that and enact it as official Massachusetts legislature. However, things are looking promising for the initiative. “There is broad bipartisan support at the state and local levels,” said Fernandez. With this support, the Initiative has a hopeful future.
While the initiative waits to be signed into law, there are still steps students can take to support it. Students can take initiatives ranging from sharing infographics about the initiative on social media to donating money to UMass Lowell and Lowell-wide food pantries. These actions show interest in the passage of the initiative.
The Hunger Free Campus Initiative is a small but crucial part of the wider Fair Share Amendment. This would generate 2 billion dollars in revenue for public education and transportation and help offset the dramatically raising costs of education in Massachusetts.
Since 2000, cost of public education has raised 59% in Massachusetts, far outpacing the inflation rate. With over two-thirds of Massachusetts college-bound students seeking public education, this is an issue that impacts much of the state. Despite this demand, state support for public institutions has decreased over the past decade. To support the large number of students seeking public education in Massachusetts, the state must rise to the call of action and fund the schools appropriately while also upholding Massachusetts’ educational reputation. For more information about the letter, the Fair Share Amendment and the Hunger Free Campus Initiative, contact the Student Government Association President, Neydar Fernandez.