Food insecurity among college students in the United States

Food insecurity is an issue effecting many American college students. While hunger in the United States effects all age groups, food insecurity seems to be especially prevalent among students. Studies have found that students of color are disproportionately affected. Students can be especially vulnerable to hunger during their first year, as it may be the first time they've lived away from home. The rising cost of education is another driver of food insecurity among students. Experiencing a period of chronic hunger can impact a student's mental health, and can lead to lower academic performance. Measures taken to alleviate hunger among students includes the establishment of food pantries in several US universities.

CausesEdit

Students, especially first year students, are "uniquely" vulnerable to food insecurity as they transition from a state of dependency (often being looked after by parents) to autonomy. Additionally, the costs involved with higher education have been rising, in some cases faster than peoples ability to pay. [1][2][3]

When entering college, many students are leaving their homes and managing their own finances for the very first time in their lives.[4]  Depending on where they go to school, there may be limited access to affordable and nutritious food, such as in food deserts, making students particularly vulnerable to food insecurity.  Students are often forced to choose between expensive textbooks and school materials and food, leaving many students hungry.  Hunger can distract students from focusing, leading to decreased academic performance, longer time than usual to graduate, and higher rates of depression.[4]  Furthermore, familial financial hardship, ever-rising costs of tuition and housing, and lack of sufficient financial aid –which can be attributed to recent major cuts in states’ budgets for public universities and lack of federal aid –have made food insecurity an increasingly common experience among college students.[5][6] In fact, a study on hunger in US colleges that took data from 2006 to 2016 showed that 40% of students experienced food insecurity.[5]

PrevalenceEdit

Food insecurity prevalence was found to be 43.5% in a systematic review of food insecurity among US students in higher education.[3] This prevalence of food insecurity is over twice as high as that reported in United States national households.[7] Data have been collected to estimate prevalence both nationally as well as at specific institutions (two and four year colleges). For example, a Oregon university reported that 59% of their college students experienced food insecurity[7] where as in a correlational study conducted at the University of Hawaii at Manoa found that 21-24% of their undergraduate students were food-insecure or at risk of food insecurity.[8] Data from a large southwestern university show that 32% of college freshmen, who lived in residence halls, self-reported inconsistent access to food in the past month. According to a 2011 survey of the City University of New York (CUNY) undergraduates, about two in five students reported being food insecure.[9]

DemographicsEdit

Studies have examined the demographics of students who may be more likely to be affected by food insecurity. It's been found that students of color are more likely to be affected by food insecurities. Researchers believe that growing rates of food insecurity in college students are due to an increasing population of low-income college students, higher tuition and insufficient financial assistance.[10] According to a correlational study examining the undergraduate student population from universities in Illinois, African American students were more likely to report being very-low food secure compared to other racial groups.[8] Similarly, the aforementioned study from the University of Hawaii at Manoa found that their undergraduate students, who identified as Hawaiians, Pacific Islanders, Filipinos, and mixed-race, were more likely to be at increased risk of food insecurity compared to Japanese students. In the City University of New York (CUNY), Black and Latino students were 1.5 times more likely to experience food insecurity than White and Asian students.[9] Being a first generation student is another demographic that has been related to increased risk of food insecurity.[11] Other demographics that have been found to increase risk of food insecurity in college students include receiving financial aid, being financially independent, and being employed.[12] Researchers have speculated that students who live at home with their family are less likely to be food insecure, due to spending less on housing expenditures.[8]

EffectsEdit

Mental HealthEdit

College students struggling with access to food are more likely to experience issues with mental health. According to a correlational study examining college freshmen living in residence halls from a large southwestern university, students who were food-insecure, were more likely to self-report higher levels of depression and anxiety, compared to food-secure students.[13]

Academic performanceEdit

A 2013 study of Illinois university students found those with food insecurities were more likely to report grade point averages below a 3.0.[14]

ResponsesEdit

Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP)Edit

Colleges have taken steps to address the issue of food insecurity on their campuses –such as food pantries and Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP) application assistance –though commentators have suggested more needs to be done.[15][16][2] The Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP) policies excludes many college students from receiving benefits.[17] SNAP federal policies disproportionately impacts young people and people of color. The Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP) policies excludes many college students from receiving benefits.  This is because when SNAP was first introduced, college students were not the main focus of the program as they were typically from white, middle-class families, under the care of their parents and were young high school graduates without dependents to provide for.[18][19]  To prevent the system and the benefits from being abused, students were excluded from enrolling in SNAP.

Food PantriesEdit

Researchers have suggested that college campuses examine available and accessible food-related resources to help alleviate students’ food insecurity.[12][11] In 2012, the College and University Food Bank Alliance (CUFBA) identified over 70 campuses where food pantries had been implemented or were under development.[20]

While food pantries can provide urgent, short-term resources, they are not a sustainable, long-term solution for students.  College food pantries are usually managed by volunteers and have limited budgets and resources; as a result, they do not always have nutritious food available.[5]  Furthermore, although many students are aware of these campus pantries, some may be reluctant to actually use this resource because of the stigma attached to them.[6][21] A studied showed that on campuses with food pantries, on average, only about half of the student population know of the pantry and only about one fourth of food-insecure students use the pantry.[6]

See alsoEdit

Notes and referencesEdit

  1. ^ El Zein A, Shelnutt KP, Colby S, Vilaro MJ, Zhou W, Greene G, et al. (May 2019). "Prevalence and correlates of food insecurity among U.S. college students: a multi-institutional study". BMC Public Health. 19 (1): 660. doi:10.1186/s12889-019-6943-6. PMC 6542079. PMID 31142305.
  2. ^ a b Pedersen T (2019-08-13). "Food Insecurity Common Among US College Students". Psych Central. Retrieved 2019-11-23.
  3. ^ a b Nazmi A, Martinez S, Byrd A, Robinson D, Bianco S, Maguire J, Crutchfield RM, Condron K, Ritchie L (3 September 2019). "A systematic review of food insecurity among US students in higher education". Journal of Hunger & Environmental Nutrition. 14 (5): 725–740. doi:10.1080/19320248.2018.1484316. S2CID 158506646.
  4. ^ a b Martinez, Suzanna M.; Webb, Karen; Frongillo, Edward A.; Ritchie, Lorrene D. (2018-01-02). "Food insecurity in California's public university system: What are the risk factors?". Journal of Hunger & Environmental Nutrition. 13 (1): 1–18. doi:10.1080/19320248.2017.1374901. ISSN 1932-0248. S2CID 158485075.
  5. ^ a b c Martinez, Suzanna M.; Grandner, Michael A.; Nazmi, Aydin; Canedo, Elias Ruben; Ritchie, Lorrene D. (2019-06-24). "Pathways from Food Insecurity to Health Outcomes among California University Students". Nutrients. 11 (6): 1419. doi:10.3390/nu11061419. ISSN 2072-6643. PMC 6627945. PMID 31238534.
  6. ^ a b c El Zein, Aseel; Shelnutt, Karla P.; Colby, Sarah; Vilaro, Melissa J.; Zhou, Wenjun; Greene, Geoffrey; Olfert, Melissa D.; Riggsbee, Kristin; Morrell, Jesse Stabile; Mathews, Anne E. (December 2019). "Prevalence and correlates of food insecurity among U.S. college students: a multi-institutional study". BMC Public Health. 19 (1): 660. doi:10.1186/s12889-019-6943-6. ISSN 1471-2458. PMC 6542079. PMID 31142305.
  7. ^ a b Patton-López MM, López-Cevallos DF, Cancel-Tirado DI, Vazquez L (May 2014). "Prevalence and correlates of food insecurity among students attending a midsize rural university in Oregon". Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior. 46 (3): 209–214. doi:10.1016/j.jneb.2013.10.007. PMID 24406268.
  8. ^ a b c Chaparro MP, Zaghloul SS, Holck P, Dobbs J (November 2009). "Food insecurity prevalence among college students at the University of Hawai'i at Mānoa". Public Health Nutrition. 12 (11): 2097–103. doi:10.1017/S1368980009990735. PMID 19650961.
  9. ^ a b Freudenberg N, Manzo L, Jones H, Kwan A, Tsui E, Gagnon M (April 2011). Food Insecurity at CUNY: Results from a Survey of CUNY Undergraduate Students (PDF). Healthy CUNY Initiative (Report). City University of New York.
  10. ^ Freudenberg N, Goldrick-Rab S, Poppendieck J (December 2019). "College Students and SNAP: The New Face of Food Insecurity in the United States". American Journal of Public Health. 109 (12): 1652–1658. doi:10.2105/AJPH.2019.305332. PMC 6836795. PMID 31622149.
  11. ^ a b Davidson AR, Morrell J (2 January 2020). "Food insecurity prevalence among university students in New Hampshire". Journal of Hunger & Environmental Nutrition. 15 (1): 118–127. doi:10.1080/19320248.2018.1512928.
  12. ^ a b Gaines A, Robb CA, Knol LL, Sickler S (July 2014). "Examining the role of financial factors, resources and skills in predicting food security status among college students: Food security and resource adequacy". International Journal of Consumer Studies. 38 (4): 374–384. doi:10.1111/ijcs.12110.
  13. ^ Bruening M, Brennhofer S, van Woerden I, Todd M, Laska M (September 2016). "Factors Related to the High Rates of Food Insecurity among Diverse, Urban College Freshmen". Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. 116 (9): 1450–1457. doi:10.1016/j.jand.2016.04.004. PMC 5520984. PMID 27212147.
  14. ^ Morris LM, Smith S, Davis J, Null DB (June 2016). "The Prevalence of Food Security and Insecurity Among Illinois University Students". Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior. 48 (6): 376–382.e1. doi:10.1016/j.jneb.2016.03.013. PMID 27118138.
  15. ^ Martinez SM, Grandner MA, Nazmi A, Canedo ER, Ritchie LD (June 2019). "Pathways from Food Insecurity to Health Outcomes among California University Students". Nutrients. 11 (6): 1419. doi:10.3390/nu11061419. PMC 6627945. PMID 31238534.
  16. ^ Moon E (June 28, 2019). "Half of College Students Are Food Insecure. Are Universities Doing Enough to Help Them?". Pacific Standard. Retrieved 2019-11-23.
  17. ^ Freudenberg N, Goldrick-Rab S, Poppendieck J (December 2019). "College Students and SNAP: The New Face of Food Insecurity in the United States". American Journal of Public Health. 109 (12): 1652–1658. doi:10.2105/AJPH.2019.305332. PMC 6836795. PMID 31622149.
  18. ^ "The supplemental nutrition assistance program: How does CalFresh work for college students in California? A policy analysis - ProQuest". search.proquest.com. Retrieved 2020-11-22.
  19. ^ "How an outdated law is leaving millions of low-income college students hungry". The Counter. 2019-01-10. Retrieved 2020-11-22.
  20. ^ Cady CL (1 January 2014). "Food Insecurity as a Student Issue". Journal of College and Character. 15 (4). doi:10.1515/jcc-2014-0031. S2CID 145384218.
  21. ^ Caplan, Pat (2016). "Big society or broken society?: Food banks in the UK". Anthropology Today. 32 (1): 5–9. doi:10.1111/1467-8322.12223. ISSN 1467-8322.