College students not getting proper nutrition
College students are much more likely to be “food insecure” than those in the average American household, according to a recent study. Authors say this might have implications for academic success, physical and emotional health and other issues.
Food insecurity is defined as limited or uncertain availability of nutritionally adequate and safe foods, and the ability to acquire such food in acceptable ways. The number of college students who experienced a case of food insecurity in the last year is listed at 59 percent in these findings in the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior, compared to 14.9 percent of households in the nation. The study was done by researchers from Oregon State University, Oregon’s Benton County Health Department and Western Oregon University.
“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 OSU’s Center for Latino/a Studies and Engagement, in a statement. “But it was shocking to find food insecurity of this severity. Several recent trends may be combining to cause this.”
These trends may include rising college costs, more low-income and first-generation students attending college, and changing demographic trends, a combination which might be making this issue more significant than it has been in the past.
“Rising costs of education are now affecting more people,” said lead study author Megan Patton-López of the Benton County Health Department. “And for many of these students who are coming from low-income families and attending college for the first time, this may be a continuation of food insecurity they’ve known before. It becomes a way of life, and they don’t have as many resources to help them out.”
Food insecurity has been associated with depression, stress, trouble learning in the classroom, and poor health. When similar issues have been addressed with elementary school students, improvements were seen in academic performance, behavior and retention of knowledge. However, these problems have received little attention in the 19-24 year old demographic that predominates in college, according to the study.
Researchers believe these findings at Western Oregon University likely reflect similar concerns at other colleges and universities across the U.S., with more research needed to determine the full scope of the issue.
“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. “It does appear this is a very serious issue that has not received adequate attention, and we need to explore it further.”
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