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Association Office Professionals

Food Insecurity

WHAT IS FOOD INSECURITY?

When an individual lacks adequate amounts of nutritionally adequate food or experiences episodes during which they are unable to be certain that they will have access to food, they are experiencing food insecurity (Coleman-Jensen et al., 2017, p. 1; US Department of Agriculture, 2022). 

In fact, the USDA has designated certain levels of food insecurity: low food security and very low food security (USDA, 2018).  "Low food security ..[occurs when an individual experiences] reduced quality, variety, or desirability of diet with little to no indication of reduced food intake" (USDA, 2018).  Conversely, "very low food security reports of multiple indications of disrupted eating patterns and reduced food intake” (USDA, 2018).

PREVALENCE OF FOOD INSECURITY

Studies show that between 11 to 45 percent of college students (across both community colleges and 4 year universities) experienced food insecurity (Dickson & DeLoach, 2021).   A 2020 survey indicated that 39% of college student had experienced food insecurity in the 30 day period prior to being surveyed (Hope College, 2021).  

These students are the future of our communities and of our nation.  Let's help them eliminate the barrier that food insecurity presents to academic success (Zigmont, Linsmeier, & Gallup, 2019).  This silent epidemic represents a barrier that can be diminished through consolidated efforts.  

IMPACT OF FOOD INSECURITY

Health

Depression and sinking self-esteem can also occur thereby taxing an individual's ability to remain mentally health (Farahbakhsh et al., 2017; Meza et al., 2018; Henry, 2017; Martinez et al., 2018).  Moreover, students may seek to skip meals or nourish themselves with low cost junk food that could lead to long-term obesity (Bruening et al. 2016; Bruening et al. 2018).

Student Engagement

Effective learning requires that a student be engaged both within the context of their classes and socially amongst their fellow campus community members (Harris, 2008; Krause & Coates, 2008; Lewis, 2010; Li et al. 2010; Park, 2005; Wang & Eccles, 2012;
Willms et al. 2009). Hence, several studies have observed a positive correlation between the level a student is engaged and their ability to academically achieve (Carini, Kuh & Klein, 2006; Coates, 2005; Connell et al. 1994; Furlong & Christenson, 2008; Marks, 2000; Park, 2005).  If a student has unmet food needs, they can feel disconnected from their campus (National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, 2017).  

Academic Performance

Students suffering from food insecurity may experience increased fatigue which makes it difficult to focus (Glik & Martinez, 2017).  As an individual loses focus, food insecurity has been noted to adversely impact a student's ability to academically perform, including decreased levels of confidence in their overall academic abilities (Cady, 2014; Camelo & Elliott, 2019; Farahbakhsh et al., 2017; Meza et al., 2018; Henry, 2017; Martinez et al., 2018).  

Over 50 percent of those responding to a study by Goldrick-Rab et al. (2018) had both failed a class and identified themselves as food insecure.  In Dubrick, Matthews and Cady's 2016 study, 33% of those identifying as food insecure noted that food insecurity impacted their education negatively with 25 percent dropping classes as a result of food insecurity. In the 2018 study conducted by Phillips, McDaniel, and Croft students identified as food insecure experienced a GPA decrease, considered dropping classes to a higher degree than other study participants, and contemplated dropping out of school. 

For a list of references cited on this page, email jennifer.lewisFREEMississippi 

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