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Hunger on Campus: A Multi-Method Study of Food Insecurity among Post-Secondary Students at the University of Alberta Open Access


Other title
Food Insecurity
Type of item
Degree grantor
University of Alberta
Author or creator
Hanbazaza, Mahitab A
Supervisor and department
Willows, Noreen (Department of Agricultural, Food and Nutritional Science)
Ball, Geoff (Department of Pediatrics)
Examining committee member and department
Farmer, Anna (Department of Agricultural, Food and Nutritional Science)
Maximova, Katerina (School of Public Health)
Department of Agricultural, Food, and Nutritional Science
Nutrition & Metabolism
Date accepted
Graduation date
2016-06:Fall 2016
Doctor of Philosophy
Degree level
Individuals who are food insecure have insufficient access to food due to financial resource constraints. As an increasing number of students seek food assistance from the Campus Food Bank (CFB) Society at the University of Alberta (UAlberta), research is needed to understand why post-secondary students experience food insecurity. The primary focus of this multi-method research was to identify and describe food insecurity among post-secondary students using the CFB at the UAlberta. The secondary focus was to explore and understand the experiences and consequences of food insecurity among international post-secondary students using the CFB at the UAlberta. Three related studies were performed. First, a cross-sectional study was done to characterize the sociodemographic and educational characteristics of student clients (n=568) of the CFB using an existing database that housed data from registered users. These data were compared to publically available information on the UAlberta student body (n=38,774). Second, a cross-sectional study was conducted that involved a structured interview with student clients of the CFB (n=58). This study included the collection of data on participants’ sociodemographic and educational characteristics, food insecurity status, general health and well-being, diet quality, coping strategies, and academic performance. Third, a descriptive, qualitative study was completed using semi-structured individual interviews with international student clients of the CFB (n=11) who had moderate or severe food insecurity. Collectively, data derived from this multi-method research provided a better understanding of food insecurity in post-secondary students, and international students in particular. Specifically, we found that the majority of CFB clients were students and that international and graduate students were overrepresented among CFB student clients. Compared to students with Canadian citizenship, international students were younger, more likely to be graduate students, and rated their mental health more positively. Limited income was the main issue that contributed to food insecurity among post-secondary students. International students were less likely to ask for food from friends or relatives or apply for loans or bursaries to cope with food insecurity. The use of more severe coping strategies in response to long-term food insecurity might lead to adverse health effects in this population that can have a negative impact on their well-being and academic performance. Findings suggested that international students faced unique challenges and different experiences compared to their Canadian peers, which highlighted the value of targeted strategies to mitigate the influence of food insecurity within both domestic and international student groups. Post-secondary students require increased financial assistance and/or reduced education-related expenses to mitigate food insecurity. Longitudinal research with larger sample sizes is needed to provide a clearer picture on the long-term consequences of food insecurity on post-secondary students.
This thesis is made available by the University of Alberta Libraries with permission of the copyright owner solely for the purpose of private, scholarly or scientific research. This thesis, or any portion thereof, may not otherwise be copied or reproduced without the written consent of the copyright owner, except to the extent permitted by Canadian copyright law.
Citation for previous publication
Mahitab Hanbazaza, Geoff D.C. Ball, Anna Farmer, Katerina Maximova, Noreen D. Willows (2016). Filling a Need: Sociodemographic and Educational Characteristics Among Student Clients of a University-Based Campus Food Bank. Journal of Hunger and Environmental Nutrition. DOI:10.1080/19320248.2015.1128864.

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