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What is the food security status, self-rated health, and diet of students using a university-based food bank? Open Access


Other title
nutritional status
Food security
public health
Type of item
Degree grantor
University of Alberta
Author or creator
Farahbakhsh, Jasmine J
Supervisor and department
Willows, Noreen (Agricultural, Food, and Nutritional Science)
Examining committee member and department
Maximova, Katerina (Public Health)
Parkins, John (Resource Economics and Environmental Sociology)
Farmer, Anna P. (Agricultural, Food, and Nutritional Science)
Ball, Geoff D.C. (Pediatrics)
Department of Agricultural, Food, and Nutritional Science
Nutrition and Metabolism
Date accepted
Graduation date
Master of Science
Degree level
Background: Food insecurity is the limited or uncertain ability to obtain the quantity and/or quality of food that an individual or household needs. The topic of household food insecurity has been investigated in myriad vulnerable groups, including low-income families, women, black and Hispanic households, immigrants, and indigenous populations. Very little work has been conducted on post-secondary students who experience food insecurity. Objectives: This study aimed to describe the food security status and characteristics of students using the Campus Food Bank, and to compare the self-rated health and well-being, diet, and academics between students with severe and non-severe food insecurity. Methods: Face-to-face, structured interviews were conducted with university students who use a campus-based food bank. Descriptive statistics, Chi-square tests, t-tests, and logistic regression were used to process the data on SPSS 21. Results: Fifty-eight students were recruited; the average age was 30.0 ± 8.3 years, 60% were females, 47% were international students, and 50% were graduate students. The majority of students (90%) experienced some degree of food insecurity. Students with severe food insecurity were more likely to experience poor overall health (OR 4.06, 95% CI 1.10-14.78) and mental health (OR 4.96, 95% CI 1.28-19.19), and consume fewer daily fruits, vegetables and legumes (t=2.72, p=0.009) compared to students with non-severe food insecurity. While most students perceived that their academics suffered because of food insecurity, the academic outcomes were more pronounced among students with severe food insecurity. Compared to the University of Alberta student population, and all students who use the Campus Food Bank, our sample had significantly more graduate students, and international students. Discussion / Conclusion: The findings are a testament to the variety of adverse outcomes that food insecurity can have on students’ lives. Freezing tuition and compulsory fees and instating a Guaranteed Annual Income for all Canadians could improve the food situation of post-secondary students. Further, food banks could better cater to their clientele by implementing more empowering forms of food aid (such as grocery store gift cards), and asking clients about the foods they would like to receive. This research has provided foundational knowledge about students who access campus food banks. Longitudinal research is needed to ascertain directionality of the association between food insecurity and well-being, and to explore longer-term outcomes of post-secondary student food insecurity, such as graduation rates and employability.
Permission is hereby granted to the University of Alberta Libraries to reproduce single copies of this thesis and to lend or sell such copies for private, scholarly or scientific research purposes only. The author reserves all other publication and other rights in association with the copyright in the thesis and, except as herein before provided, neither the thesis nor any substantial portion thereof may be printed or otherwise reproduced in any material form whatsoever without the author's prior written permission.
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