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P21 College Students Attending Online Programs Have Lower Rates of Food Insecurity than Residential Students

      Background

      Residential students living off-campus report greater food insecurity than those living on campus. Distance education programs are becoming popular and provide a way to continue one's education from home. The food security status of students completing their programs online is unknown.

      Objective

      To assess food security among college students by program type- residential or online.

      Study Design, Settings, Participants

      Cross-sectional study, students aged 18 years or older, attending a large Southern university completed an online survey in 2019.

      Measurable Outcomes/Analysis

      Food security status was assessed using the Adult Food Security Survey Module and students were classified as either food secure or insecure. Students belonged to either a residential or an online program. Binary logistic regression analysis was used to determine whether food security status differed by program type while adjusting for age, sex, race/ethnicity, family financial support, receipt of financial aid, and status as a first-generation student. Demographic and financial differences associated with food insecurity were compared by program type.

      Results

      Among students (n = 2,819), 43.1% were food insecure and 9.8% were online students. Food insecurity prevalence among the residential students was significantly higher than students obtaining their degree online (44.3% vs 32.6%, OR = 2.6, 95% CI = 1.8, 3.9). When compared to residential students, online students were more likely to be female (OR = 3.6, 95% CI = 2.2, 6.1), older (OR = 1.2, 95% CI = 1.1, 1.2), married (OR = 5.3, 95% CI = 3.5, 8.0), employed full-time (OR = 7.7, 95% CI = 4.5, 13.0) and less likely to receive financial aid (OR = 0.5, 95% CI = 0.4, 0.8) and family support (OR = 0.6, 95% CI = 0.4, 0.9).

      Conclusion

      The prevalence of food insecurity among students in this sample is twice as high as that of the state and nation. However, students in an online program may be more food secure compared to residential students. Further studies are needed to assess factors that may be associated with food insecurity among online students.
      Funding None.

      Appendix. Supplementary data