Public Comments for: HB629 - Hunger-Free Campus Grant Program; established, report.
To Whom It May Concern, Thank you for the opportunity to comment on HB 1034. As a public high school school teacher and parent of two young children (ages 5 and 2) in Virginia, I have serious concerns that this bill will wind up doing more harm than good for the children of our state. I have worked in two different public school systems in Virginia over 13 years, and I have seen first hand how beneficial counseling services can be to a wide variety of students. If parents are allowed to prohibit their students from accessing counseling services in the school, these students may be cut off from not only critical mental health support, but but also the academic, career, and community support that school counselors and mental health team members provide. All members of a school mental health team must undergo rigorous education before obtaining their licenses, and as such they should be trusted as the professionals they are to provide only services that they deem necessary for students well-being. I strongly urge you to let the trained mental health professionals do their jobs. Don't make students get tied in the mire of adult squibbles. Thank you, Sara Watkins Mother Teacher Concerned Virginia Citizen
To Whom It May Concern, Thank you for the opportunity to comment on HB HB1032. As a public high school school teacher and parent of two young children (ages 5 and 2) in Virginia, I have serious concerns that this bill will wind up doing more harm than good for the children of our state. As VA Senator Peterson said on January 27 of this year, regarding a similar bill, "I don't think we should be involved in micromanaging school libraries...The problem is that you’re going to sweep up books that you don’t intend to sweep up" (Matthew Barakat, abcnews.go.com). I strongly urge you to leave the books in the libraries for the kids. They deserve to have the opportunity to decide with their own parents and personal support systems what books to read. Thank you, Sara Watkins Mother Teacher Concerned Virginia Citizen
Greetings, My name is Chlo'e Edwards with Voices for Virginia's Children where our mission is to improve the laws of Virginia's children, particularly those at the greatest disadvantage. We are supportive of the following bills: HB1184 (Guzman), HB582 (Roem), HB 629 (Roem), HB583 (Roem), HB 587 (Roem), HB649 (Carr). As of 2020, the number of children (0-17) and young adults (18-24) in Virginia is just above 2.6M, and yet, too many children struggle to meet their basic needs. Poverty rates in Virginia remain unchanged in the past decade. Additionally, barriers to access to services and resources still persist for families of diverse identities and that face unique challenges. Voices believes in creating just and fair futures for Virginia's children as we know that children are the future. In creasing access to services and supports for Virginia's children today to ensure they live, thrive, and survive, we are creating a brighter future tomorrow. We hope that it pleases the member of the committees to support these initiatives as there are
Don't let children starve! Eat the rich!
In support of HB 485, 582 & 629, George Mason University Science Prof. Dann Sklarew, PhD presents economic costs of Virginia retreating from combatting food insecurity on our campuses as well as benefits of action now. About one third of our public college & university students are now food insecure. Those who indefinitely trade "books for bread," & leave their studies to take care of their basic human needs, will lose out on $22,000/year in salary when compared to college graduates. Without college degrees, 1.1 million Virginians with only "some college" together forgo some $24.2 billion in income annually, while skilled labor vacancies remain empty. As Dr. Sklarew's former students & partners validate when they testify today, modest investments supporting food security can make a huge difference towards keeping hungry students healthy & graduating with professional, marketable skills. Regularly informing all college students of the federal "SNAP" food assistance program (HB 582), their eligibility & how to signup could bring $93 million to Virginia to reduce their food insecurity, according to SCHEV researcher Tom Allison. This would be at no notable cost to the Commonwealth or its campuses. Food insecure students ineligible for SNAP could still receive critical nourishment, shelter and/or transport resources from the proposed Student Emergency Aid Program (HB 485). My university has had a resource-limited version of this, "Stay Mason," that has done wonders for the students who benefitted. Once again, the Commonwealth working through SCHEV has a unique opportunity to scale institutional support toward the magnitude of the challenges we now face to help first generation, low income & other resource-limited students surmount their hunger-related challenges to realize their academic & career goals. & once again, we have the opportunity to invest in a voluntary program to help lift unsteady students back onto their feet. Both the SNAP & SEAP bills above provide direct benefits to an eligible subset of each institution's food insecure students. Both are needed but insufficient to resolve hunger among the one third of 525,000 Virginia college students who need food assistance. We also seek a systemic approach to incentivize public universities & community colleges to implement what we know works well, with resources to experiment, learn & close the gap for those students who need help beyond SNAP or SEAP. The 2-year Hunger-free Campus Grant Program (HB 629) does that by establishing a threshold of food security deployments expected at each school in order to be eligible for short-term capacity-building support to end hunger on campus. This approach recognizes that, at this time of decreasing enrollment (down 2.5% since 2019), keeping every student we can well-nourished in college until they graduate & can play an effective role in our workforce, this is a responsibility best shared between Richmond. its colleges & universities, & hungry students themselves. One of these partners alone cannot solve the challenge of participation in Mason's Patriot Pantry doubling in 2 years to over 300 students, for instance. My students surveyed 188 peers last semester: They discovered 80% deemed the hunger-free bill necessary (HB 629); 90% supported a bill for emergency assistance to students (HB485); yet too few had even heard of SNAP (HB 582). With your help & vote, we can do better. Thank you!
My name is Pabla Bernardes, I am a senior at VCU. I come before you to affirm the importance of this bill, especially 2 years into a global pandemic where families are struggling more than ever to make ends meet. This past fall semester, It came to my knowledge that a brilliant student with whom I shared a class was facing such hardship that another student had to provide meals for her. Although this student never shared her circumstances with our class, it broke my heart to hear that she had no funds to buy food for herself on the eve of her graduation, a moment that should be all about accomplishment and celebration. Unfortunately, this reality is true for far too many students at VCU and across the commonwealth. I urge you to promptly pass HB 629 so that thousands of students like my classmate can graduate and become self-sufficient.
The Mason community prides itself on being the most diverse most and innovative institution in Virginia. The diversity that I have been exposed, has provided me with the knowledge and skills I need to help in making a difference in my community, and that is why I am here today to show my support for HB629. Attending Mason has helped me change who I think of as college students. With the changing demographic of the college student going beyond just teenagers who have just graduated high school and who are supported by their parents with easy access to their parent’s credit card to buy a late-night pizza because the dinning halls food just isn’t that appetizing. We are also now seeing parents with kids and multiple jobs trying to juggle both going to work to provide the necessary food for their family while also working towards getting a degree that will help them achieve economic mobility so they can better support their family. Without recognizing the changing demographic of college student, we fail to support and ensure college students have consistent access to food. With the passing of this bill, Mason will be better equipped to ensure a fully stocked Patriot Pantry and help combat food insecurity within the Mason Student population. I encourage you to pass HB629! Thank you!
I am submitting testimony on behalf of the Hope Center for College, Community, and Justice in support of HB582 and HB629.