Elevating Student Voices: Food Insecurity on College Campuses
The United States Department of Agriculture defines food insecurity as “the limited or uncertain availability of nutritionally adequate and safe foods, or limited or uncertain ability to acquire acceptable foods in socially acceptable ways.”
Food insecurity can be a pressing concern for college students who live on or near campus. This is especially true for universities located in food-insecure communities that do not prioritize nutritious food and its accessibility.
There are serious consequences for students who are impacted by food insecurity, such as
- Low GPA
- Low class attendance
- Increased levels of stress and depression
- Overconsumption of sugars, grains, and added fats
Greensboro, North Carolina, is home to the nation’s largest historically Black university, North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University. In order to gain perspective into how college students across the nation are being impacted by food insecurity, two students currently enrolled at North Carolina A&T shared their personal experiences.
“Being a vegetarian means that I usually have to eat an extra two to three meals a day, but when there are no options like pasta salad or a black bean burger, it can be pretty difficult.”
One student with dietary restrictions shared, “When I was living in the student dorms, it was difficult to make sure I was getting enough to eat…I do my own grocery shopping now, which comes with its own challenges, like having to drive farther to access a grocery store and the high cost of food.”
The food insecurity these students are experiencing is not exclusive to this North Carolina A&T. This is a concern for many food-insecure students across the nation who are in pursuit of higher education.
According to Health Affairs Forefront, food insecurity mainly impacts financially independent students, and factors can vary from student loan debt, financial insecurity, and work or family obligations. With these factors in mind, a full-time student’s priority should be academic studies, not where they can access or afford nutritious meals and food while living on or near campus.
To address food insecurity on college campuses, several factors should be considered, especially at our nation’s HBCU campuses. The implementation of both state and federal initiatives is necessary to adequately address and overcome the challenges college students face while navigating food insecurity.
Environmental Health Equity Fellow