The prevalence of food insecurity on college campuses has been found to be higher than reported in U.S. households. Despite the prevalence and negative health and academic consequences associated with food insecurity in college students, barriers exist in food access resource utilization, especially in the wake of COVID-19.
The purpose of this study is to determine the prevalence of food insecurity at Mississippi State University and explore college students’ perceptions of food access resources and resource utilization.
Study Design, Setting, Participants
This study employed a mixed methods design. Quantitative data was gathered from an online survey to assess the prevalence, demographics, and food insecurity status from undergraduate students at Mississippi State University. The 1157 survey respondents then provided the recruitment pool for qualitative data collection, which was obtained via focus groups and open-ended questionnaires to explore student perspectives of food insecurity and food access resources.
SPSS 27 was used to determine food security status based on the USDA's Household Food Security Survey Module 6-item short form. NVivo 12 was used for coding and thematic analyses to examine college student perspectives of food insecurity and food access resources.
The prevalence of food insecurity among college students was 34.1%. Key influencers emerged as the major theme associated with students’ views about food insecurity, and the resources available to address the issue. These influencers were personal beliefs, life skills, and the university. Student perceptions of what it means to need food access resources and the value of a resource were interconnected.
Food insecurity continues to occur at a higher prevalence in college student populations than in U.S. households. When addressing food insecurity in this group, key influencers of food insecurity status should be considered when exploring viable intervention strategies that produce acceptable resources that students will use.