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Students Ask Lawmakers For Help Fighting Homelessness And Food Insecurity

College students crowd around podium.
Robbie Gaffney
/
WFSU

The Florida Student Association (FSA) is pushing lawmakers to fund programs for college students who are homeless and hungry. 

The student-led FSA is asking for $340,000 for the initiative. The group says the money would help students who don’t have food to eat or a place to stay. A recent nation-wide survey of 86,000 students found more than half of them faced food insecurity. Food insecurity is an issue close to FSA member Hunter Lyons, who grew up in foster care.

Young man speaks at a podium.
Robbie Gaffney
/
WFSU

"I was surfing from house to house on an air mattress," Lyons says. "It was really tough to be successful in school when you don’t have a full stomach or a steady home, and the same applies to college."

FSA President Zenani Johnson says student homelessness is present at every university. Her close friend sleeps in a car.

“It’s cold today," Johnson says,  "It is 32 degrees today and can you imagine the amount of people that are homeless sleeping on the streets? Some of these are our students within our very state university system. They attend class and then they go sleep in their car or out somewhere in the cold.”

Young woman stands at podium.
Robbie Gaffney
/
WFSU

Johnson along with other FSA members rallied at the capitol Wednesday to spread awareness of issues affecting universities across Florida. Sen. Anitere Flores (R-Miami) and Rep. Mel Ponder (R-Fort Walton Beach) are drafting bills to support the FSA's proposal. The group is also asking for a sales tax break on textbooks. Also on students’ radar: mental health and sexual assault awareness. Members are planning to meet in Tallahassee and Orlando for round table discussions on the issues.