Causes, Effects and Solutions of Food Insecurity among Students

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The nature of higher education and how people view the importance of obtaining a college degree has been changed dramatically over the past several decades in the United States. The most important aspect of this change is that pursuing a college degree is not just limited to students from high-income families, who have educated parents or traditional students rather higher education is wide opened to students from diverse backgrounds of race/ ethnicity, socioeconomic status, age, gender etc. Many students who grew up in poverty and even those who are experiencing homelessness value the importance of higher education.

As a result, more and more students attend colleges as a path to gain the necessary skills and qualifications in order to achieve financial stability and live better lives in the future. At the same time, many college students struggle with the skyrocketing cost of higher education on daily basis and many students choose to cut their budget on food in order to pay for college. Consequently, a significant number of college students are food insecure and seek support from food pantries, public assistance or choose to starve if they couldn’t find any form of support to battle food insecurity.

According to Trends in College Pricing 2018 report, average published in‐state tuition and fees in the public four‐year sector increased by $250, from $9,980 in 2017-18 to $10,230 in 2018-19. Average total tuition and fee and room and board charges in 2018-19 were $21,370. Even though there was an increase in grant aid and tax benefits, it was only sufficient to cover a smaller portion of the price increases over the last five years than between 2008-09 and 2013-14. Furthermore, the total grant aid for undergraduate students has grown slowly, rising by only 6% between 2010-11 and 2017-18 compared to the increase by more than 60% between 2007-08 and 2010-11. As a result, net prices have been rising, putting additional financial stress on students and families, among whom incomes continue to rise slowly (Trends in College Pricing, 2018).

In addition to tuition and fees, students also have the responsibility of room and board charges for if they reside on campus, living costs for those who live off campus, and other components of student budgets. Whether students live on or off campus, they must pay for housing and food, buy books and supplies, and cover transportation and other basic living costs, which create a significant financial barrier for many students. Trends in College Pricing 2018 report states that in 2018-19, full-time in-state students at public four-year colleges were responsible to cover an average of about $14,900 in tuition and fees and room and board after financial aid and tax benefits, in addition to the costs books and supplies and other living expenses (Trends in College Pricing, 2018).

Because of these skyrocketing college expenses, some students choose to attend college while working full time even though it is both mentally and physically exhausting and many other students work at least 20 hours per week while attending college in order to pay for basic college expenses. However, even for students who are employed, the cost of higher education is too expensive to cover alongside other living costs since this employment usually doesn’t provide enough for them to cover all the expenses. Consequently, most students find that it is most flexible to cut their budget on food and reach for the most accessible, cheapest food items, eat fast food, seek for public assistance or skip meals to pay for their education.

According to a study conducted in 2016, 48 percent of students reported food insecurity in the previous 30 days, including 22 percent with very low levels of food security that qualified them as hungry. 56 percent of food insecure students were employed and of those employed students, 38 percent worked 20 hours or more per week. Surprisingly, 43 percent of meal plan enrollees had reported that they still experienced food insecurity suggesting that being enrolled in a meal plan in campus does not eliminate the threat of food insecurity (Dubick, Mathews & Cady, 2016).

As solutions to help alleviate hunger in the student community, many campuses have initiated college meal assistance programs, offer events with free food events, opening of college food pantries and providing baggage meal options. In addition, many students seek support from federal food assistance programs such as Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) making it the most widely used food program. However, recent studies have shown that being eligible for SNAP do not necessarily guarantee that students receive benefits. According to Allison, approximately 50 percent of all college students experience food insecurity but only 18 percent are eligible for SNAP and only three percent actually receive benefits suggesting that states are losing out on $4.2 billion in federal resources that could be provided to students experiencing food insecurity (Allison, 2018). These statistics provide an insight into the narrow eligibility criteria of SNAP and possible inefficient practices of the program.

According to the study of Dubick et al. (2016), 32 percent of food insecure students believed that hunger or housing problems had an impact on their education. 55 percent of students had reported that food insecurity caused them not to buy a required textbook, 35 percent reported missing a class and 25 percent reported dropping a class (Dubick et al., 2016). Not having the ability to access nutritious food have significant negative impacts on students’ mental and physical health as well as cognitive and intellectual capabilities.

A research by Maroto, Snelling and Linck (2015) suggested that food insecure students are more likely than food-secure students to report a lower GPA (2.0–2.49) versus a higher GPA (3.5–4.0) indicating the adverse effects of food insecurity on academic performance (Maroto, Snelling & Linck, 2014). In addition, it is also unfortunate that some students who struggle with food insecurity choose to eat fast food just to satiate their hunger because fast food and processed food are an inexpensive option compared with fresh fruits and vegetables, which ultimately lead to an unhealthy future generation.

Food insecurity can have serious negative impacts on college students’ success. Therefore, it is essential that the government and policymakers reevaluate the access, affordability and the value of the higher education system in the United States and initiate and promote effective food assistance programs to help students who struggle with food insecurity yet not eligible for current federals food assistant programs.


Cite this paper

Causes, Effects and Solutions of Food Insecurity among Students. (2022, Mar 13). Retrieved from https://samploon.com/causes-effects-and-solutions-of-food-insecurity-among-students/



What are the causes and effects of food insecurity?
The causes of food insecurity are lack of money to buy food, lack of access to healthy food, and not knowing how to cook healthy meals. The effects of food insecurity are poor health, increased risk for obesity and chronic diseases, and poor academic performance.
What are the effects of food insecurity?
The effects of food insecurity can be felt both physically and mentally. Without access to nutritious food, people can experience a host of health problems. At the same time, the stress of not knowing where your next meal will come from can take a toll on your mental health.
What are the main causes of food insecurity?
The main causes of food insecurity are hunger and malnutrition. They are caused by a lack of access to food or by the inability to afford or acquire food.
What is one effect of food insecurity for students?
The impact of gender inequality in the workplace is that women are paid less than men for doing the same job, and they are often not given the same opportunities to advance in their careers.
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