Study Finds Hunger Issues among College Students

The authors say food insecurity is more widespread on college campuses than most people think.
Published: October 7, 2016

A new study found that nearly half of all college students struggled to access affordable, nutritious food at least once in the past month.

The percentage of student respondents that reported food insecurity in the previous 30 days is consistent with other research on the subject.

The authors of the study say food insecurity affects students of community colleges and four year institutions alike, regardless of the students’ efforts while enrolled.

“Food insecurity is a problem even for students who are employed, participate in a campus meal plan, or seek other financial or material help,” the authors wrote.

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The study relied on survey data collected by the College and University Food Bank Alliance, the National Student Campaign Against Hunger and Homelessness, the Student Government Resource Center and the Student Public Interest Research Groups. The four organizations surveyed 3,765 students in 12 states, including students who are enrolled in 26 different four year colleges and eight community colleges.

Overall, more than one in five students reported very low levels of food accessibility, qualifying them as hungry, and more than half of all first-generation students reported food insecurity.

The researchers also found that more than half of all African-American respondents reported food insecurity compared to just 40 percent of non-Hispanic white students.

Food insecurity is also correlated with other financial strains. Of the students reporting food insecurity, 64 percent reported some type of housing insecurity and 15 percent reported experiencing some form of homelessness in the last year.

The researchers suggested a number of ways colleges could attempt to remedy the situation, including creating food pantries, community gardens and food recovery programs on campus.

The study’s authors also argued policymakers should work to improve students’ access to federal aid initiatives like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and should restructure programs like FASFA and the National Postsecondary Student Aid Study.

“These findings reinforce the growing understanding that food insecurity presents a serious challenge for today’s college students, and highlight the need for additional research to better understand this problem and explore effective solutions,” the authors wrote.

Read the full report here.

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