Date of Award

8-1-2014

Degree Name

Master of Science

Department

Food and Nutrition

First Advisor

Smith, Sylvia

Abstract

Low and very low food security is a concern in the US, and specific populations are at high risk. An understudied population with regards to food security is university students. University students suffering from low and very low food security are at risk for physical and mental consequences. Because limited research has been conducted identifying the food security status of university students in the US, the public is unaware of the problem. This study was designed to determine food security status of Illinois university students and the socio-demographic characteristics associated with each food security classification. A cross-sectional survey design was used to analyze the food security status of Illinois university students. An online 40-question survey based on the USDA's Household Food Security Survey Module was distributed via mass email to university students at four Illinois universities including Eastern Illinois University, Northern Illinois University, Southern Illinois University, and Western Illinois University. Statistical analysis included frequencies and Chi-squared Test of Independence. A total sample of 2,753 students from four universities completed the online survey. Results determined that 30.4% of Illinois university students had low or very low food security, twice as high as the general public. There were significant associations between food security status and the following socio-demographic variables: ethnicity, academic level, GPA, living location on- or off-campus, living alone, financial support, and hometown region. African Americans and Hispanics, juniors and seniors, students with lower GPAs, students receiving financial support requiring repayment, and students from urban hometowns were found to be at-risk populations associated with low or very low food security. This study suggests a significant portion of Illinois university students are at high risk for low and very low food security. Significant socio-demographic characteristics associated with low and very low food security could be used to develop programs targeting those in need. Future research should be conducted to determine food security status of students at universities throughout the US

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