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Assessing food insecurity prevalence and associated factors among college students enrolled in a university in the Southeast USA

  • Ruth Wooten (a1), Marsha Spence (a1), Sarah Colby (a1) and Elizabeth Anderson Steeves (a1)

To assess rates of food insecurity (FI) among college students enrolled at a large public university system across one US state and identify factors associated with experiencing FI.


Cross-sectional online survey administered to eligible, enrolled students (n 38 614) across three campuses within the university system, with 5593 students responding (4824 final sample after applying exclusion criteria, 12·5 % response rate). FI was assessed using the US Department of Agriculture’s Adult Food Security Survey Module. Descriptive statistics were conducted to calculate FI status and identify sample characteristics. Associations between FI status and independent variables were assessed using bivariate analyses (χ2 and ANOVA tests) and multivariate logistic regression.


Large public university system, Southeast USA.


Enrolled college students (excluding freshman, <18 years of age).


Thirty-six per cent of students were classified as FI. After controlling for confounders, factors that were significantly associated with increased likelihood of FI included previous FI (P<0·001; OR=4·78), financial factors and self-reported grade point average ≤3·85. Seniors were significantly more likely experience FI than graduate students (P=0·004, OR=1·41). A significant relationship was not identified between FI and meal plan participation, and no differences in FI were found between graduate students and individuals with sophomore or junior standing.


This research identifies high rates of FI among college students enrolled in a large public university system in the Southeast USA, as well as selected factors related to FI. Programmes to assist college students experiencing FI need to be developed and tested.

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Public Health Nutrition
  • ISSN: 1368-9800
  • EISSN: 1475-2727
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