College students are much more likely to experience “food insecurity” than the general population, according to recent studies. A student survey at a campus in rural Oregon indicated 59 percent of them are less likely to have ready access to nutritious food, the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior recently reported.
The USDA defines food insecurity as “limited or uncertain access to adequate food” due to a lack of money and other resources. (Hunger is “an individual-level physiological condition that may result from food insecurity.”)
Food insecurity can alter intellectual and psychosocial development at any time. For college students, it can hurt not only academic performance, but also psychological and physical well-being.
Students’ health and employment status as well as their income have an impact on their food insecurity, according to the journal. The study also revealed that college students are stretching fewer dollars between jobs, financial aid and help from parents. Interestingly, study participants who had some kind of job were about twice as likely to have some food insecurity.
One way to prevent college-campus food insecurity would be to offer subsidized or increased access to campus dining hall plans. Many colleges require freshmen to sign up for a dining hall plan for the first year. Perhaps a financial assistance program that includes dining hall plans for both residents and commuting students would earmark funds for nutrition that would not be utilized for other expenses.