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College Students have High Levels of Food Insecurity

Update Date: Jan 28, 2014 02:31 PM EST

The combination of high food costs, limited income and poor food support systems can lead to food insecurity. People with food insecurity are more likely to deal with other problems related to academics, physical health and emotions. In a new study, researchers set out to examine the effects of food insecurity on college students, who are often considered one of the most vulnerable groups due to the lack of monetary funds in combination with high stress levels. The researchers reported that surprisingly, a huge percentage of college students deals with food insecurity.

"Based on other research that's been done, we expected some amount of food concerns among college students," said Daniel López-Cevallos, associate director of research at Oregon State University's Center for Latino/a Studies and Engagement. "But it was shocking to find food insecurity of this severity. Several recent trends may be combining to cause this."

For this study, the researchers came from the Benton County Health Department, and Western Oregon University. Researchers surveyed 354 students attending Western Oregon. The team defined food insecurity as limited accessibility to nutritionally sufficient and safe food options. People with food insecurity might have difficult finding available options and might not be able to acquire foods in acceptable ways.

Based from this sample set of 19 to 24-year-olds, the researchers found that 59 percent of the college students had some concerns over accessing good food options. The percentage of all households within the United States that have these similar concerns is 14.9. The researchers also reported that over the past 30 years, higher education costs have slowly outpaced inflation, living costs and medical expenses.

The team stated that food insecurity during one's college years could be detrimental for cognitive, academic and psychosocial development. Lastly, the researchers tied food insecurity to lower levels of health, lower grade point average, low income and employment. The researchers reported that having a job did not prevent food insecurity. Some of the students that reported food insecurity were working 18 hours per week.

"One thing that's clear is that colleges and universities need to be having this conversation and learning more about the issues their students may be facing," said López-Cevallos according to Medical Xpress. "There may be steps to take locally that could help, and policies that could be considered nationally. But it does appear this is a very serious issue that has not received adequate attention, and we need to explore it further."

The findings were published in the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior.

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