Title: “Perceptions of Food Insecurity among College Students”
The increasing financial cost of attending a university in the United States forces many students to compromise their quality of life in order to fund their education. For many students, this means struggling with food insecurity. Food insecurity is defined as the “economic and social condition of limited or uncertain access to adequate food (USDA).” Currently, there is a lack of academic studies examining how college students are impacted by food insecurity. Food insecurity is often overlooked as an issue that affects students due to the perceived privilege of having access to higher education. According to Scanlan (2003), poverty takes on many forms other than purely economic, such as ethnicity, race, gender, and other inequalities. A close analysis of these factors among college students may shed light on who experiences food insecurity and who considers food insecurity to be a serious issue. Utilizing neoliberalism as an institutional framework, my research study contemplates why food insecurity is an issue in the United States and why there has not been more collective action by society to end it. My research study examines how students enrolled at the University of Central Florida experience food insecurity and estimates the prevalence of food insecurity across the university population. Drawing on the few previous studies that have been conducted to date, I designed a quantitative survey questionnaire that measures both experience with food insecurity and perception of food insecurity as a social problem on the campus. The survey questionnaire included the U.S.D.A. food insecurity module as well as questions that are specific to a college population such as impact on grades, housing quality, and so forth. The survey was distributed to students at UCF via the online surveying system, Qualtrics. In addition to the online survey, I also conducted confidential surveys in person with willing students who use Knights Pantry, the on-campus food pantry for students. After data were collected, I will conduct analyses to assess the levels of food insecurity at UCF and provide specific analyses comparing how students using the pantry are coping compared to those who are not using the pantry. Interview data was coded for themes to better understand the causes and impact of food insecurity among pantry using students. These findings contribute towards the small but growing literature on food insecurity on our college campuses as well as to efforts to better assist students across college campuses.
Sarah Parker was born and raised in Pembroke Pines, Florida. She is pursuing a bachelor's degree in sociology and a certificate in gender studies. She is passionate about giving back to her community, and is currently studying food insecurity among college students under the guidance of her faculty mentor, Dr. Amy Donley. Additionally, Sarah is researching how Puerto Rican students displaced by Hurricane Maria are coping with the impact of the storm and relocation to Orlando, Florida, under the direction of Dr. Peter Jacques. She plans to obtain her Ph.D. in Sociology and become an applied sociologist and university professor.