College Students Face Food Insecurity

Food insecurity among college students is more widespread than many Americans may assume. More than 1/3 of college students today experience insecurity with food and/or housing because of the rising cost of tuition and high cost of rent.

Food insecurity is defined as “a federal measure of a household’s ability to provide enough food for every person in the household to have an active, healthy life”.

36% of college students aren’t eating well enough to be living active and healthy lives.
College students often have multiple financial responsibilities: tuition, books, transportation, room and board. College students are increasingly older, with families to support while they earn a degree, and they may have child care costs. One in five are parents.

Many college students struggle to cover basic needs. Among students facing food insecurity are those experiencing housing insecurity and even homelessness. College students who don’t have family support are especially in danger of compromising their heath and academic success, too.

Food insecurity among college students affects academic performance, graduation, and retention rates. Students with higher GPAs have been found to be less likely to experience food insecurity. For some, the struggle to afford food may play a role in delayed graduation, discontinuous enrollment, and attenuation of academic goals.

This isn’t shocking because of the toll food insecurity can take on mental health. Studies show that food insecurity is associated with behavioral and attention problems and depression among students of all ages.

The college experience is tough in an economy in which a majority of students also maintain jobs to make ends meet. Rising costs of groceries can make eating healthy seem like an unaffordable luxury.

Pandemic-related campus shutdowns have caused the rate of hunger to nearly double in some states, leading to even more food insecurity for college students.

Some colleges have arranged campus food pantries or other forms of aid but many college students in need struggle to find food resources.

You can help. Connect with a team in Foundation Beyond Belief’s volunteer network to collaborate on the fight against food insecurity on your local campus, or for guidance on starting up your own volunteer team.