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Food insecurity among college students in West Texas

Brenda Abu (Rochester Institute of Technology, College of Health Sciences and Technology, Wegmans School of Health and Nutrition, Rochester, New York, USA)
Wilna Oldewage-Theron (College of Human Sciences, Texas Tech University, Lubbock, Texas, USA)

British Food Journal

ISSN: 0007-070X

Article publication date: 17 May 2019

Issue publication date: 17 May 2019

Abstract

Purpose

Food insecurity is an evolving nutrition issue affecting both developed and underdeveloped college campuses. The purpose of this paper is to assess food insecurity and related coping strategies among Texas Tech University students.

Design/methodology/approach

This was a cross-sectional online survey in Lubbock, Texas, among college students (n=173). The outcome measures, socio-demographic factors, household food insecurity access) and dietary diversity were assessed using validated tools. Statistical analyses were performed using SPSS software. Socio-demographic differences in food security status were examined using χ2, and means testing. Risks of student food insecurity were assessed using odds ratios (ORs).

Findings

Respondents were mostly female (70 percent), non-Hispanic white (58 percent) and young adults’ (median age: 22.0 (20.0, 27.0)), with a median monthly income of $1,000 (0.0, 1,500) and spent about a fifth of their income on food. More students were food insecure (59.5 percent) compared to those who experienced food security (40.5 percent) (p<0.001). Some of the severe food insecure students (16.7 percent) reported going to bed without food (6.9 percent) in the prior 30 days. Students with monthly food budgets of ⩽ $200 were 3.2 times more likely to be food insecure (OR=3.231: CI: 1.353–7.714; p=0.010) compared to those with higher food budgets. A students’ choice of priority monthly expenses was significantly associated with food security status; however, further risk assessment of dichotomous “prioritized food” and “prioritized other expenses” was not statistically significant.

Originality/value

Student’s food budget of $200 was the strongest determinant of food insecurity. Individual training on money management and meal planning are recommended. University policies should recognize and develop academic support policies addressing competing expenses with food.

Keywords

Acknowledgements

Conflict of interest: the authors declare no conflict of interest in the subject presented in the paper.

The authors acknowledge Texas Tech University for funding this project and the contributions of Drs Marcos Sanchez, Calle Alexandra, Amy Boren and Carlos Carpio and the International Center for Food Industry Excellence (ICFIE) during the design of the research. The authors also wish to thank all the participants and student organisations who helped to publicize the study.

Citation

Abu, B. and Oldewage-Theron, W. (2019), "Food insecurity among college students in West Texas", British Food Journal, Vol. 121 No. 3, pp. 738-754. https://doi.org/10.1108/BFJ-12-2018-0804

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2019, Emerald Publishing Limited