Study outlines campuses' food problem
- A survey of more than 3,700 two-year and four-year college students across 12 states reveals 48% of respondents reported at least one incident of food insecurity in the last 30 days. Food insecurity is defined as a lack of consistent access to quality food.
- This number more than doubles the results of a 2015 survey on food security among students at 10 community colleges,
- Food insecurity issues were highest for students reporting inconsistency with housing or outright homelessness (64%). African American students reported the highest rates of food insecurity (57%), and the study showed direct correlations between food insecurity and academic performance, with 55% of students having to choose between eating and buying a textbook or attending a class.
Most people typically discuss hunger in the context of K-12 students, but this survey clearly shows that college students are vulnerable to the effects of hunger on academic access and persistence in similar ways. For academic leaders, the problem presents a unique challenge, because older learners can hide symptoms of hunger in the classroom far easier than children, and by the time academic struggles may be exposed, hunger is usually non-existent on the matrix for adaptive learning or intervention strategies.
Institutions like Michigan State University are working to address the problem with food pantry access, but the more significant target is helping students to eliminate the cost-of-attendance issue. With these costs increasing and presenting greater challenges based upon geography and food access, colleges should perhaps consider building food access into development planning and as a part of academic monitoring questions for at-risk students.
- National Student Campaign Against Hunger & Homelessness Hunger on campus: The challenge of food insecurity for college students
- Education Dive Measuring the Impact: Food insecurity hits schools nationwide, stretches into higher ed