Topical Area: Community and Public Health Nutrition, Aging and Chronic Disease, Obesity
The objective of this study was to examine the association between food security status and health and diet-related outcomes in UNC Chapel Hill students.
Methods : We conducted a cross-sectional analysis using data from 4,984 students who completed an online questionnaire that was sent to all UNC Chapel Hill students with a publicly available email address in October and November of 2016. The questionnaire assessed food security status over the past 12 months using the 10-item US Adult Food Security Survey Module and included questions related to self-rated health, weight status, and coping strategies related to obtaining food that could impact diet quality. We used multinomial logistic regression to assess the association between food security status and health and diet-related outcomes. Statistical significance was considered p< .05.
Among students in our sample, 56% experienced high, 22% marginal, 19% low, and 3% very low food security. Compared with students experiencing high food security, students experiencing marginal, low, and very low food security had a significantly greater odds of reporting lower self-rated health. Students experiencing marginal and low food security had a greater odds of experiencing overweight or obesity compared with students experiencing high food security, however, there were no significant associations between very low food security and weight status. Experiencing marginal, low, or very low food security was also significantly associated with sometimes or often eating more food than normal when food was plentiful; eating less healthy meals to be able to eat more; and purchasing cheap, processed food.
Only slightly more than half of students in our sample reported experiencing high food security. This is especially concerning as we found a lower food security status to be associated with worse outcomes related to self-rated health and weight status, as well as an increased likelihood of using coping strategies to obtain food that contribute to poor dietary intake.
Funding Sources : This study was supported by a University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Food for All micro-grant.