Stern college hunger bill passes Senate Education Committee

State Senator Henry Stern perpares to speak at SCOPE's 30th anniversary celebration in Valencia on Sunday. Ryan Painter/The Signal.

The Plan Against College Hunger Act, by State Senator Henry Stern, D-Canoga Park, received unanimous support from the Senate Committee on Education with a 6-0 vote on Wednesday.

The Act would create the Plan Against College Hunger, or PACH, Program within the Student Aid Commission.

Recipients of Cal Grant B, the state grant program designed to provide college access to low-income students, would be eligible for a supplemental PACH award based on the typical cost of a ten-meal-a-week plan at the type of institution they attend.

“I would skip breakfast, try to make a small, cheap meal like a smoothie or sandwich for lunch and try to have dinner at least five times a week,” said Cal Grant recipient Nikki Dalupang, describing her experience before the committee.

“We’re fighting every day to secure the means to eventually provide for ourselves while we currently can’t,” community college student Gezel Ligeid De La Ciel testified in support of the Act. “But so many more of us would be completing if we were just getting a little more help.”

“There are students living in their cars in one of the richest states on the planet, students living on a dollar, two dollars a day to try to feed themselves,” Senator Stern said, going on to address housing challenges that exacerbate food insecurity. “We can’t expect to be the greatest state in the country and the greatest economy on the planet if we don’t invest in young people and defy this injustice.”

“We aren’t doing a good enough job of making sure that you can get your education, that you can eat not just food, but healthy nutritious food,” said committee member Senator Connie Leyva, D-Chino, going on to contrast the struggles of students today with her own college experience.

As the bill works its way through the process, Senator Stern and his staff will work closely with the California Student Aid Commission to ensure that the program in its final form works well with a planned overhaul of the larger grants program.

Speaking in support of the measure, Maggie White, student at CSU Stanislaus and president of the Cal State Student Association said, “You can likely imagine just how difficult it would be for a student to pay attention in class, let alone retain the necessary information to succeed at a high level and graduate in a timely manner, when all they can think about is their hunger and where they might locate their next meal.”

The bill’s next stop is the Senate Appropriations Committee where it is scheduled to be heard later this month.​

The above information was obtained by The Signal via a news release from the office of State Senator Henry Stern.

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