Choosing between textbooks, food: Rep. Bonamici hosts discussion on college hunger

Published: Jan. 13, 2023 at 6:08 PM PST
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PORTLAND Ore. (KPTV) - U.S. Representative Suzanne Bonamici hosted a Friday roundtable at Portland State University to discuss food insecurity on Portland area campuses with students, faculty and staff.

Bonamici is set to introduce the “Opportunity To Address College Hunger Act” to Congress, which is meant to help students overcome barriers in accessing SNAP benefits.

“When I went to school more than a few years ago, I accessed food assistance,” Bonamici said. “I was on my own and I wouldn’t have been able to get through without it.”

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However, people who participated in the event said that would be a good first step, but more needs to be done.

Katherine Bode, benefits navigator at Clatsop Community College, said 66% of students are food insecurity and are worried about pandemic emergency food benefits ending soon.

“I received a phone call earlier in the week and the student was terrified,” Bode said. “They have their pandemic food benefits, their SNAP benefits, that were $982 and now they are down to $400-something as of March 1. They are barely making it as it is and they are going to have to quit school and get a full-time job in order to put food on the table.”

Camille Leavitt is the student president at Clatsop Community College.

“I also work at our school bookstore and I have noticed this term, more than other terms, students are opting out of a schoolbook that is necessary because they cannot eat if they do,” Leavitt said.

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A graduate assistant at OSU Basic Needs Center, Raven Merritt-Shorb, said grad students are running into trouble when they try to access benefits and resources.

“We have a lot of students who are forced to come to the food pantry and use other resources that don’t have as big of funding because they are not eligible for something that, in theory, they should be,” Merritt-Shorb said.

The roundtable also discussed how to make applying for benefits less complicated.

After the event, Bonamici said she looks forward to having more of these discussions with constituents.