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Facing Food Insecurity in College

Updated: Sep 24, 2023

Blog post written by,

Yaneth Beltran, RD/LDN, CEDS

Food security is a topic that has been brought up by many entities (Food for The Poor, Feeding America, USDA, and UNICEF). What is food security? Food security refers to the state of ensuring that every individual, regardless of their socioeconomic background or circumstances, has consistent and uninterrupted access to an adequate quantity of nutritious food that is essential for maintaining a robust and healthy lifestyle. This concept encompasses the provision of food to all individuals, without any discrimination or barriers, so that they can lead an active and productive life. Now, sometimes, there is food insecurity, which is defined as a state of limited and unreliable access to an adequate amount of food and can occur intermittently or persist over an extended period of time. It’s something that affect people everywhere and college students are no exception. “In the last decade, multiple studies of food insecurity among college students have found rates from 20% to more than 50%, considerably higher than the 12% rate for the entire US population” (Freudenberg et al, 2019).

There are numerous factors contributing to the increased prevalence of food insecurity among college students. Firstly, the rising number of low-income individuals pursuing higher education has significantly impacted this issue. Additionally, exorbitant college expenses coupled with inadequate financial assistance further exacerbate the problem. Moreover, financial difficulties have become more widespread among low- and moderate-income families, intensifying the risk of food insecurity among college students. The labor market's lack of opportunities for part-time workers also plays a detrimental role in exacerbating this issue. Furthermore, the declining per capita resources allocated to colleges have added to the challenges faced by students. Lastly, the policies implemented by the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP) have unintentionally excluded many college students from accessing this vital support system, further contributing to higher rates of food insecurity.

“Food insecurity among college students is higher than the national average of 12.7 percent. Prevalence studies report a range of 14–59 percent of students being food insecure at some point during their college career” (HENRY, May 2017). A significant number of students who do not have access to enough food on a regular basis experience the negative effects of feeling stigmatized and ashamed on a daily basis.

Below are some tips to facilitate the process of creating balanced meals:

Think about what you are looking for in terms of taste, consistency, and temperature.

1. Look at the options offered at the dining hall and get food choices from each food group.

2. Some examples of food groups are:

  • Carbohydrates: bread, rice, sweet potatoes.

  • Protein: eggs, beans, lentils, chickpeas, deli meats, hummus, chicken, cheese.

  • Fats: avocado, salad dressing, butter.

  • Vegetables: corn, salads, broccoli.

  • Fruits: bananas, strawberries, smoothies.

3. If you live outside campus, meal planning and having a grocery shopping list could help you save money and be more organized with eating. Use coupons and look for foods that are on sale. Grains are a good source of protein, and are not as expensive as some other proteins.

4. Have snacks in case you need them. Please be aware about the amount of food you want to keep in your room; balance is important.

5. Maintain a water bottle with you to stay hydrated.

Many colleges also have programs that could assist students. For example, Florida Atlantic University has the Beyond Food Program and Food Pantry and the University of North Carolina Ashville hosts a weekly food distribution event on campus. Other colleges have community partnerships to help student have access to sufficient food. Having a food plan and talking about food assistance to meet students’ nutritional basic needs could make a difference in their academic performance and college experience.


Freudenberg, Nicholas, et al. “College Students and SNAP: The New Face of Food Insecurity in the United States.” American Journal of Public Health, vol. 109, no. 12, Dec. 2019, pp. 1652–1658,

HENRY, May 2017. “Understanding Food Insecurity among College Students: Experience, Motivation, and Local Solutions.” Annals of Anthropological Practice, vol. 41, no. 1, May 2017, pp. 6–19,



Eating Disorder and OCD Registered Dietitian

I take a holistic approach to wellness by providing nutritional counseling to clients that want to establish a healthy relationship with food. I am a compassionate person, who believes in the power of the therapeutic relationship between clients and professionals. For a FREE phone consultation and more information about nutritional counseling, please call me directly at 954.773.3139. Services available in English/Spanish and Online.


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