In recent years, university campuses have found high rates of food insecurity. Food insecurity is associated with negative health and academic outcomes. Identifying contributing and mediating factors can inform appropriate intervention development.
The purpose of this study was to examine skill, stress, and time related to meal planning, grocery shopping, food preparation, and budgeting in undergraduate university students.
Study Design, Setting, Participants
This was a cross-sectional study with undergraduate students at a private, mid-sized university in the US Midwest. Students from engineering, business, health science, education, and sociology were recruited through their campus email accounts.
Informed by qualitative semi-structured interviews with the target population, a short questionnaire examining student perception of skill, time, and stress in meal planning, grocery shopping, food preparation, and budgeting was developed. Further, the USDA short 6-item food security questionnaire was used to measure food security in the sample population. One-way Analysis of Variance and Bonferroni post-hoc tests were employed to examine the differences in skill, time, and stress across the 3 food security groups (food secure, low food security, and very low food security).
Of the 270 undergraduate students who completed the questionnaires, 26.4% identified as low food secure and 15.5% as very low food secure. Further, there was a significant difference between groups in terms of skill, time, and stress (P < .01). For skill, food-secure students had a significantly higher score compared to the low food security group. In terms of stress, the low and very low food secure groups had significantly higher stress and less perceived time compared to the food secure group (P < .05).
When addressing food insecurity in this population, skill-based factors and time may be mediating factors. Interventions addressing these factors may help to address food insecurity and develop lifelong skills.