Food Insecurity Among College Students: Why?

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The U.S. Department of Agriculture defines food insecurity as a lack of consistent access to enough food for an active, healthy lifestyle. Food insecurity and hunger can have multiple effects on college students’ lives. They also have a ripple effect on college campuses. 

You might be thinking that shortage of food is a non-issue in our world of unprecedented abundance, especially in the United States. However, research shows that some 35 million Americans are suffering from it. Almost 30% of college students experience food insecurity to varying degrees. It appears that students transitioning from high school to college are one of the most vulnerable groups. 

How is that possible? What causes food insecurity among college students? What are the specific impacts on their lives? We have done some research to find out.

  • Excessive fees

For many students, paying tuition fees and dealing with student debt can be a tall order. It is difficult and, at times, impossible to manage all financial obligations. As a result, students are forced to make savings on their food intake. This does not bode well for them because the learning process is a challenging one, and it requires students to have lots of energy and drive to tackle ongoing academic assignments. When malnutritioned, you are unlikely to rise up to that challenge.

  • COVID-19

The pandemic also seems to have contributed to increased food insecurity. While research is still ongoing to establish direct causal links, preliminary findings suggest that many college students were eating less, having poorly balanced diets, and seeing their health status deteriorate. In part, this must have been due to recurring lockdowns and restricted access to shops and supermarkets. More people decided to opt for junk food because of easier access and quicker delivery.

  • Lack of well-paid jobs

It looks easy, but getting well-paid jobs can be challenging for college students. More often than not, they have to opt for any job opportunity coming their way. Earnings are not always sufficient to pay the bills. In addition, working long hours after school means that college students’ eating habits and meal times are completely going astray. 

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  • Unhealthy eating habits

The above leads to the next logical point. Not only do many college students eat less, but also they eat the wrong kinds of food. They also eat at the wrong times. For instance, they can eat before going to bed. This makes their digestive systems explode because they do not have sufficient time to process food before their bodies can relax in preparation for a good night’s sleep.

  • Single parents

Unsurprisingly, single parents, whether male or female, are also among those suffering from food insecurity. While they dedicate all their resources to feeding and raising kids, they might be left with next to nothing for themselves. Not all are aware of or able to use various support services or financial aid to ease their financial burden.

  • International students

International students are also vulnerable to food insecurity. This is not only because of financial hardships they have to endure due to excessive tuition fees or the lack of access to employment in foreign countries. Many find it difficult to adjust to local cuisines. Even if they decide to cook an international dinner once in a while, it is tough to be cooking every day, given the never-ending college assignments and exams.

  • Consequences

The consequences of food insecurity and malnutrition can be dire. In addition to obvious detrimental effects on physical health, there are implications for students’ self-efficacy, motivation, and drive to achieve results in college. Mental health issues are another consequence that may grow into long-term depression. It takes a concerted effort of educational institutions, the authorities, and students themselves to tackle the problem effectively.

Final Remarks

Food insecurity affects more college students than you might think. At worst, it can become a major barrier to achieving long-term educational goals. As a student, you should never turn a blind eye to the factors that are responsible for food insecurity. Identify them and tackle them head-on. Never hesitate to seek professional help to nip the issue in the bud before it is too late to take effective action.


Carl Hill has made a name for himself as a reputable professional writer and nutrition expert. He knows a thing or two about the importance of healthy eating, nutritional values, and anorexia. During his years providing student support services, Carl has successfully advised thousands of students struggling with financial challenges and food insecurity.

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