Food Insecurity Among Tertiary Students: A Pilot Study
Added on -2019-09-20
This pilot study aimed to assess the prevalence, severity and potential determinants of food insecurity among tertiary students attending a Victorian-based institution. Results suggest that tertiary students are a vulnerable group and financial pressures faced when students are not living with their parents may be attributable to food insecurity.
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contribute to the future progression andprosperity of Australia.17,18Research at Griffith UniversityinQueensland, Australia,recently reported that the prevalence of foodinsecurity among tertiary students was 72%(47% without hunger; 25% with hunger) usinga multi-item assessment measure.12 Inter-nationally, research conducted at theUniversity of Hawaii (UHM) in the UnitedStates discovered 21% of the student bodyexperienced food insecurity (15% withouthunger; 6% with hunger) using the UnitedStates Department of Agricul- ture (USDA)multi-item assessmentmeasure.19Food insecurity is the outcome of immediateissues around food availability, accessibility andutilisation.9 Although diverse factors expose certaingroups in society to varying degrees of foodinsecurity,11financial constraints arerecognised as a key predictor.20–24 Relevantindicators of financial status include totalincome and income source (employment,welfare dependency and parental support).20–24Further, for students who are livingindependently away from home for the firsttime (renting, share house, universityresidence, with extended family), the cost ofliving and utility expenses may amplifyeconomic stress and lead to the displacementof money away from purchasing nutritiousfood.19,25,26The present pilot study aimed to quantifythe prevalence and severity of foodinsecurity among tertiary students enrolledinaVictorian-basedinstitution(DeakinUniversity) andtoinvestigatekeyfactorspotentiallyassociatedwiththis. To ourknowledge, the prevalence of and factorscontribut- ing to food insecurity inAustralian students have onlybeen reportedin one prior study.12 The present study is thefirst toundertakethiswithinaVictorianinstituteandthefirstto use multivariateregression models to examine explanatoryfactors. Results may help advocate forfurtherresearch funding to assess this issueon a wider scale and eventually informpoliciestoprotectthewellbeingofstudentsaswellas their academic performance byminimising food insecurity prevalence.9,11MethodsDeakin University has campuses located inthreetownships (Burwood,Geelong(twoseparatecampuses:Waterfrontand WaurnPonds)andWarrnambool)withinthestateofVicto- ria, Australia, and has over 40 000enrolled students. Stu- dents from each ofthese campuses were eligible to participate,with the only exclusion criteria beingstudents below 18 years of age (for ethicspurposes). Students were invited to completea self-reported questionnaire on their eatingbehaviours and personal characteristics (nodirect mention of food insecurity occurredduring recruitment to avoid bias). All surveyscompleted by students were anony- mous.Ethics approval for this cross-sectional studywas granted by the Deakin University Facultyof HealthHuman EthicsAdvisoryGroup.Therecruitmentprocessspannedfourweeksinduration. A range of techniqueswere used to recruit participants, including:on-campus recruitment; information flyers,bul- letins and posters situated at prominentsites throughoutall
campusesandallfaculties;noticesviaDeakinStudiesOnline unit sites; andannouncements made at 10 lectures fromrandomly selected courses across allfaculties. Surveys were distributed withinlectures where announcements weredelivered,andalsomailedtothosewhoexpressedinterestin participating.Information was posted on a further 68 unitsitesbyunitchairsuponrequest.Attheendofrecruitment, 124 surveys werecompleted for this pilot study. In place of acompensation for each participant, a smalldonation was made for each surveycompleted ($0.25 per survey) to thecharitable food organisation SecondBite.27To estimatetheprevalenceandseverityoffoodinsecurity within the student body,the survey included several ques- tionsderivedfromthemulti-itemUnitedStatesDepartment ofAgriculture-AdultFoodSecuritySurveyModule(USDA- AFSSM).3This survey is the most contemporary,validated and commonly employed measureof food insecurity inter- nationally.10,28Ourquestionnairetoassessfoodinsecurityandassociated factors amongtertiary students contained 45 items, in aformat that included both open- and closed-ended ques- tions.Withpermission,thesurveywasbasedonthatusedby Hughesand colleagues in Queensland,12 with slightmodifi- cationstoaccommodatetheDeakinUniversitycohort.The relative severity of food insecurityreflected the ranking outlined in the USDA-AFSSM.4 This scale’s algo- rithmcategorises individuals as either foodsecure, food insecure without hunger, orfood insecure with hunger.3,25Individuals were classified as food insecurewithout hunger if their responses were ‘oftentrue’ or ‘sometimes true’ to any of thefollowing statements related to their currentuniversity year:3,28IworriedthatmyfoodwouldrunoutbeforeIhadmoney to buymore.I couldn’t afford to eat balanced meals.The food that you bought just didn’t last and you didn’t have money to get more.Individualswereclassifiedasfoodinsecure(withhunger) if,inadditiontoansweringaffirmativelytoanyoftheabovequestions,theyalsoanswered‘yes’toanyofthefollowing:3,28Didyoueverdecreasethesizeofyourmealsorskipmeals becausetherewasn’tenoughmoneyforfood?Were you ever hungry but didn’t eat because you couldn’t afford enough food?Did you lose weight because you didn’t have enough money for food?Didyouevernoteatforawholedaybecausetherewasn’t enough money forfood?Thosestudentswhoresponded‘no’totheabovequestions were classified as foodsecure. Factors associated withfoodinsecurity were measured using a range ofquestions, with those examined in thepresent study relating to factors that mightsupport or hinder a student’s ability toprocurefood, including: living arrangements(not living with family or living with family),employment status (yes or no),personalannualincome($0–$16000or≥$16000),mainfoodcon-
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