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Freshmen at a University in Appalachia Experience a Higher Rate of Campus than Family Food Insecurity

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Abstract

Food insecurity means having limited or uncertain access, in socially acceptable ways, to an adequate and safe food supply. Ample evidence has identified college students as vulnerable to this problem, but little research has focused on freshmen. This cross-sectional study examined family and campus food insecurity among freshmen at a university in Appalachia. An online questionnaire contained sociodemographic items and scales that measured food security status, academic progress, coping strategies for accessing food, and social support. T-tests and Chi square analyses compared food insecure and food secure students. Statistical significance was p < .05. Participants were 456 freshmen, 118 males (26%) and 331 females (73%). Family and campus food insecurity were experienced by 32 (7.1%) and 98 (21.5%) of the freshmen, respectively, and 42.5% of those who experienced campus food insecurity believed their food access had worsened since starting college. Family and campus coping strategies, respectively, included stretching food (72.9 vs. 18.4%) and purchasing cheap, processed food (68.8 vs. 16.3%). Food secure students scored significantly higher on self-rated measures of academic progress (p < .01), and greater proportions of food secure students (60.7 vs. 43.9%, p < .01) perceived their eating habits since starting college as “healthy/very healthy,” and perceived their health status as “good/excellent” (86.0 vs. 71.4%, p < .01). Students requested assistance with job opportunities (19.4%), affordable meal plans (18.4%), money management (13.3%), and eating healthy (11.2%). Findings suggest that college student food insecurity begins during the freshmen year, and that there is a need for campus and community-based interventions to increase food access among these freshmen and their families.

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Acknowledgements

The authors thank the freshmen who completed the questionnaire.

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Correspondence to Kimberly S. Fasczewski.

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The authors declare that they have no conflicts of interest.

Ethical Approval

This research was not funded, and approval was obtained from the Office of Research Protections at the university prior to data collection.

Informed Consent

An informed consent letter was included in the questionnaire prior to the first item. Students who did not wish to participate after reading this letter could exit the questionnaire by clicking on an “exit” button.

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McArthur, L.H., Fasczewski, K.S., Wartinger, E. et al. Freshmen at a University in Appalachia Experience a Higher Rate of Campus than Family Food Insecurity. J Community Health 43, 969–976 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10900-018-0513-1

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