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

  • Author / Creator
    Farahbakhsh, Jasmine J
  • 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.

  • Subjects / Keywords
  • Graduation date
    Fall 2015
  • Type of Item
  • Degree
    Master of Science
  • DOI
  • License
    This thesis is made available by the University of Alberta Libraries with permission of the copyright owner solely for non-commercial purposes. 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.