The following student view is written in two parts by Spencer Good (PTCD & SRP ’24) and Madison Mogg (JMC ’27).
Spencer Good is a fourth-year James Madison College student completing a degree in political theory and constitutional democracy, and social relations and policy. He also has a minor in science, technology, environment and public policy. He is the co-founder and co-president of the Spartan Food Security Council, one of the only registered student organizations at Michigan State University fighting to end student hunger. Following graduation, Good will continue to serve and advocate for food-insecure communities, eventually pursuing a master of public policy.
Efforts to introduce a Hunger Free Campus Bill in Michigan started last fall in Case Hall. From day one, students have led this advocacy campaign, including a large contingent of James Madison College students who belong to the Spartan Food Security Council, which was founded in 2021 to tackle a growing issue at MSU: student hunger. Nearly 40% of Spartans experience some form of food insecurity, which is why our organization spent our first year engaging our campus community to create awareness for this critical issue. A year later, we initiated a strategic shift to expand our mission statewide.
For the last 14 months, SFSC students have led the Hunger Free Campus Initiative, an advocacy campaign which would introduce much needed anti-hunger legislation in Michigan.
Our advocacy efforts began on a whim. I reached out to organizers at Swipe Out Hunger, the nation’s leading nonprofit in the fight to end college food insecurity. My goal in doing so was to determine whether it was possible to introduce a Hunger Free Campus Bill, or HFCB, in Michigan. The HFCB is legislation, originally drafted by Swipe Out Hunger, that sends state-funded grants to colleges and universities to establish and expand food assistance programs on their campuses. To be frank, I did not expect a response, no less what has become SFSC’s most fruitful partnership to date. Swipe Out Hunger matched our excitement to make Michigan the next home of hunger free campuses.
With these prospective partnerships in place, we began outreach to legislators in the Michigan House of Representative and Senate. At first, meetings with representatives, senators and their staffers were few and far between. While there was interest expressed in bringing HFC legislation to Michigan, a bill sponsor was nowhere to be found.
In April 2023, the Spartan Food Security Council organized a Lobby Day at the Capitol. With a group of more than 20 students, we sat down with legislators and members of the executive branch to discuss the growing need for hunger relief on college campuses. Our advocacy efforts that day proved pivotal as we finally found a member of the Michigan House to champion our legislation: Michigan State University’s own Representative Julie Brixie (MI-73rd House District).
Since then, our advocacy efforts have ramped up significantly. Spartan Food Security Council returned to the Capitol on October 3 to celebrate a momentous occasion for our organization, university and state: The official introduction of HB 5097, the Hunger Free Campus Grant Act. Our rally was just the beginning of an exciting month of October.
One week later, a few of my peers and I had the distinct honor of testifying before the House Higher Education Committee in support of HB 5097. I never dreamed of such an opportunity at any point in my undergraduate career! What amazes me even more are underclass students like Madi Mogg who have joined the organization and their commitment to push this movement further.
Madison Mogg is a first-year student in James Madison College with an undecided major. She is an active member of the Spartan Food Security Council this semester and plans to remain involved throughout her undergraduate career. Since joining SFSC, Madi has developed a passion for addressing food insecurity though creative solutions. She is excited to undertake new projects, specifically on the advocacy front.
I joined the SFSC after going to their table at the JMC student organization fair for freshmen at the beginning of the semester. After hearing Spencer talk about food insecurity, I realized for the first time that not only is this an issue, but one that was common in our student body. As someone who has never experienced this, it was an eye-opener for me. I decided to join so I could not only help solve this issue, but also to help educate people. I started by going to the meetings, and it quickly evolved into tabling with the group, going to the rally and eventually attending the bill hearing.
I was really excited, but slightly nervous, to go to the rally when it was announced as I had never gone to the Michigan Capitol before. Even though I had no idea what to expect or even what to do, I knew that I was passionate about this cause and that the HFC bill was essential to alleviating student hunger. The speeches were really moving, and having our rally publicized definitely helped to draw attention to the issue of food insecurity as well as our initiative
After attending the rally, going to the hearing as well felt only natural — I was now invested in the progress of the bill. Again, having no experience in this arena, it was a little out of my comfort zone. But ultimately it was so inspiring and motivating. I learned about the legislative process that I had never known before.
To think that even someone like me — a first-year student who has a lot to learn about the policymaking process — can partake in advocacy efforts with the SFSC, is awesome and inspiring! Going to the hearing has absolutely cemented my passion for student food security, and I fully plan on sticking around when this bill gets passed.
Interested in becoming an HFC advocate? Attend a general meeting this semester! (Wednesdays from 6 – 7:15 p.m. in Case Hall. Also, feel free to reach us at RSO.SFSC@msu.edu or follow us on Instragram @spartanfoodsecurity
This story originally appeared on the James Madison College website.