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New Study on Food Insecurity Amongst College Students

February 10, 2016

In a startling study conducted by Sara Goldrick-Rab at the University of Wisconsin, it is reported that more than 50% of college students struggle with food insecurity. We rarely consider hunger to be a problem amongst college students for whom gaining the “Freshman 15” is considered the norm, but the majority of today’s college students do not fit the mold of the stereotypical college student. The majority of college students are older, lower class, have children, or are pursuing a two year degree. These students are struggling to make ends meet and to put food on the table for themselves and their families.

This is the first study of its kind seeking to explore and define the issue of food insecurity amongst college students. While approximately 50% of students participating in the study reported some sort of food insecurity, 20% of the participants reported very low food security with “multiple indications of disrupted eating patterns and reduced food intake.” 22% of participants described having the experience of going hungry – going without meals or eating small, unsatisfactory meals – because they did not have the money to pay for food.

Hunger for these students presents serious academic problems. Their physical hunger makes concentrating on their coursework quite difficult. Furthermore, these students may need to make the decision to sacrifice valuable study time in order to dedicate more time to work in order to pay for food. Both situations result in reduced academic performance.

There is a need for colleges to address the issue of food insecurity amongst their students. These students often have difficulty accessing food assistance programs and could benefit from assistance in trying to navigate the paperwork and process. Generally speaking, these students could benefit from counseling services addressing the issues of hunger and homelessness. Exemplary efforts have already been made by a handful of colleges offering students in need assistance acquiring clothing, cell phones, food assistance, and transportation.

Food insecurity is a prevalent problem amongst college students that threatens their academic performance. There is much more that can and must be done to address the needs of these students.

Categories: Hunger & Homelessness
Tagged with: College Hunger