The Prevalence of Food Insecurity and Its Association with Health and Academic Outcomes among College Freshmen

Document Type


Publication Date



The purpose of this study was to assess the prevalence of food insecurity among college freshmen and its association with health and academic outcomes. A cross-sectional research design was used to analyze the food security status of college freshmen (n = 859) at the end of their first academic year (April–May 2015). Freshmen from 8 colleges in the United States (n = 859) completed the US Adult Food Security Survey, the Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index, Cohen's Perceived Stress Scale, the National Cancer Institute's Dietary Screener Questionnaire, and questions related to sociodemographic characteristics and grade point average (GPA). In the overall sample, a total of 19% (n = 163) of participants were classified as food insecure. Among food-insecure participants, 36.8% (n = 60) reported very low food security; and among food-secure participants, 31% (n = 218) reported marginal food security. Independent-samples t tests showed that food-insecure freshmen showed significantly higher perceived stress and disordered eating behaviors and lower sleep quality than food-secure freshmen (P < .001). Results from multivariate logistic regression indicated that food-insecure freshmen, compared with food-secure freshmen, had higher odds of reporting disordered eating patterns (OR: 2.4; 95% CI:1.2, 4.9), perceived stress (OR: 5.9; 95% CI:1.7, 19.5), poor sleep quality (OR: 2.3; 95% CI: 1.4, 3.7), and a GPA of <3.0 (OR: 1.9; 95% CI:1.1, 3.0). No significant differences were observed in BMI, physical activity, or intakes of fruit and vegetables, whole grains, calcium, fiber, dairy products, and added sugars. Further research is needed to develop and test interventions that reduce food insecurity on college campuses because it is related to poor health outcomes and academic performance.

Publication Title

Advances in Nutrition





First Page


DOI of Published Version