Topical Area: Community and Public Health Nutrition, Aging and Chronic Disease, Obesity
Objectives : Recent reports indicate US students in higher education experience greater levels of food insecurity than the general populace. Chronic food insecurity can adversely affect health, dietary quality, and academic performance. The study objective was to describe student's food security level and diet, and determine associations with demographic characteristics, BMI, living arrangements, employment, year in school, and campus college. We hypothesized that: 1) students with high food security are consuming less healthy foods because of the price, availability and convenience of unhealthy options; 2) students living on campus are more food secure than those living off campus; 3) students who are employed are more likely to be food insecure than those unemployed.
Methods : An online survey with questions on demographics, food security, dietary intakes, purchasing habits, and shopping patterns was developed. All students in the College of Business and the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, aged 18-34, were sent a direct email invitation to participate in the Survey Monkey (Palo Alto, CA) survey.
Results : Of the 946 responses received, 684 (72.3%) had complete data on the variables of interest. Few meet daily dietary recommendations for fruit and vegetable servings (11%), fiber (27%), and eating less than 36% of total calories from fat (50%). Over 31% of participants reported low or very low food security in contrast to 11.8% nationally. Significant findings include: students who are employed are more likely to be in the low and very low food secure category (P=.006), and those students with a higher BMI had lower food security (P=.030). Students using the university meal plans had higher fat diets than those students not using a meal plan (P=.001). Over 32% of students on campus have not, but are interested in receiving information on budgeting, and 16.2% would like to know who to talk to if they are facing problems accessing enough food.
Conclusions : The majority of Iowa State University students consume too much dietary fat and do not meet fruit/vegetable, or fiber recommendations. There is a need to provide information, resources, and food options to students having difficulty accessing food.
Funding Sources : Partial research support for the project was provided by the Iowa Agriculture and Home Economics Experiment Station, Project Number IOW04002, Ames, Iowa.