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Prevalence and Correlates of Food Insecurity Among Students Attending a Midsize Rural University in Oregon

Prevalence and Correlates of Food Insecurity Among Students Attending a Midsize Rural University in Oregon

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Published by Statesman Journal
To examine the prevalence and identify correlates of food insecurity among students
attending a rural university in Oregon.
To examine the prevalence and identify correlates of food insecurity among students
attending a rural university in Oregon.

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Published by: Statesman Journal on Feb 17, 2014
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02/17/2014

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 Research Brief  
Prevalence and Correlates of Food Insecurity AmongStudents Attending a Midsize Rural University in Oregon
Megan M. Patton-L
opez, PhD, RD
1
; Daniel F. L
opez-Cevallos, PhD, MPH
2
;Doris I. Cancel-Tirado, PhD, MPH
3
; Leticia Vazquez, BS
3
ABSTRACT
Objective:
 To examine the prevalence and identify correlates of food insecurity among studentsattending a rural university in Oregon.
Methods:
 Cross-sectional nonprobability survey of 354 students attending a midsize rural university inOregon during May, 2011. The main outcome was food insecurity measured using the US Departmentof Agriculture Household Food Security Survey Module: 6-Item Short Form. Socioeconomic and demo-graphic variables were included in multivariate logistic regression models.
Results:
 Over half of students (59%) were food insecure at some point during the previous year. Havingfair/poor health (odds ratio [OR], 2.08; 95% confidence interval [CI], 1.07–4.63), being employed (OR,1.73; 95% CI, 1.04–2.88), and having an income
 <
 $15,000/y (OR, 2.23; 95% CI, 1.07–4.63) were asso-ciated with food insecurity. In turn, good academic performance (grade point average of 
 $
 3.1) wasinversely associated with food insecurity.
Conclusions:
 Food insecurity seems to be a significant issue for college students. It is necessary to expandresearchon different campussettings andfurtherstrengthensupportsystemstoincreaseaccesstonutritiousfoods for this population.
Key Words:
 food insecurity, college students, rural, Oregon (
 J Nutr Educ Behav.
 2014;
-
:1-6.)
INTRODUCTION
Household food insecurity is de
󿬁
nedas the limited or uncertain availabilityof nutritionally adequate and safefoods, and limited or uncertain abilityto acquire acceptable foods in sociallyacceptable ways.
1
As measured by theUS Department of Agriculture House-hold Food Security Module,
2
foodinsecurity is a marker of economichardship because it assesses the ade-quacy and stability of a household'sfood supply over the preceding 12months for active, healthy living of all household members. The mostrecent national data in 2011 indicatethat 14.9% of all households (17.9million) were food insecure.
3
Further-more, low-income households withincomes
 <
 185% of the povertythreshold (34.5%) and householdswith children (20.6%) were higherthan the national average.
3
Previous research has observed thatfood insecurity can disrupt optimaldevelopment throughout the lifecycle, from the prenatal period intothe elder years.
A growing body of literature has documented the effectsof food insecurity on cognitive,academic, and psychosocial deve-lopment among school-aged andteenage students. These studies consis-tently observe that food insecurity isassociated with lower academic perfor-mance, poor health, and decreasedpsychosocial function.
Among college students,
 󿬁
nancialhardship can translate into budgetdemands that compete with food dol-lars (eg, tuition, textbooks, housing,utilities, health care).
Over thepast 30 years, the price of highereducation has steadily outpacedin
󿬂
ation, the cost of living, andmedical expenses.
Recent changesto federal loan policies regarding theamount and duration of federal aidreceived, as well as how soon interestwill begin to accrue after college,may exacerbate the
 󿬁
nancial chal-lenges students face.
Food insecu-rity, as a potential consequence of the increasing cost of higher educa-tion, and its likely impact on studenthealth, learning, and social outcomesshould not be considered an acceptedaspect of the impoverished studentexperience, but a major studenthealth priority.
College students face life-changingmilestones during their transition toadulthood that may have long-lastingeffects.
Food insecurity duringthese years can potentially affectcollege students' cognitive, academic,and psychosocial development.
4
How-ever, little research has addressed thisissue. Studies addressing food insecu-rity among college students suggest ahigher prevalence of food insecuritycompared with the general popula-tion.
A study in Hawai'i foundthat 45% of students were food
1
Benton County Health Services, Corvallis, OR
2
Center for Latino/a Studies and Engagement, Oregon State University, Corvallis, OR
3
Department of Community Health, Western Oregon University, Monmouth, ORAddress for correspondence: Megan M. Patton-L
opez, PhD, RD, Benton County HealthServices, 530 NW 27th St, PO Box 579, Corvallis, OR 97339; Phone: (541) 766-6364;Fax: (541) 766-6142; E-mail: Megan.Patton-Lopez@co.benton.or.us
2014 SOCIETY FOR NUTRITION EDUCATION AND BEHAVIORhttp://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jneb.2013.10.007
 Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior
 
 Volume
-
, Number
-
, 2014 1
 
insecure or at risk of food insecurity,
whereas another study in Australiafound that almost 72% of studentswere food insecure.
No such studieshave been conducted in the continen-tal US or in rural areas. The purposeof the current study was to addressthis gap in the literature by analyzingthe prevalence of food insecurity andidentifying its correlates among stu-dents attending a rural university inOregon.
METHODS
Design and Participants
The authors distributed a cross-sectional, nonprobability, Web-based, 40-item survey via e-mail toall students (N
 ¼
 5,438) attending amidsizeruraluniversityinwesternOr-egon during May, 2011. A total of 354students completed the survey (7%response rate). The e-mail containedan informed consent form and pro-vided a link to the survey where par-ticipants con
󿬁
rmed consent beforebeginning the survey. The study waspart of a broader effort to increase ac-cess to food among students oncampus. The online survey was openfor a 2-week period during whichweekly reminders were sent.
Thestudy protocol was approved by theinstitutional review board at thisuniversity.
Theoretical Framework
Based on previous research,
relevant factors associated with foodinsecurity among university studentswere included. uestions regarding credit card debt,
employment,
and
 󿬁
nancial aid
were also added.Table 1 shows the correlates used inthis model.
FOOD INSECURITY
The researchers used the US House-hold Food Security Survey Module:6-Item Short Form to measure foodinsecurity status.
2
The 6-item scalehas been shown to have reasonablyhigh speci
󿬁
city and sensitivity andminimal bias with respect to the 18-item measure.
The 6 items of thefood security scale were reduced to 2categories: 0
 food secure and 1
 ¼
food insecure.
The internal consis-tency of the scale (Cronbach
 a
 ¼
.83)was similar to a previous study thatused the same 6-item scale.
Statistical Analysis
Summary statistics were calculated forall variables included in this study.The researchers used chi-square good-ness-of-
󿬁
t tests to compare the
 󿬁
t of the sample with selected campus-widedemographic characteristics providedby the university's registrar of 
󿬁
ce. A 2-step multivariate logistic regressionmodelwasbuilttoevaluatetheassocia-tion between correlates and food inse-curity status (step 1), adjusting forsociodemographic factors (step 2). Allanalyses were conducted using Stata11 (StataCorp, College Station, TX,2009). The Hosmer-Lemeshow test
wasperformedtoassessmodel
󿬁
tusingthe
 lfit
 command.
RESULTS
Table 2 presents the summary statis-tics for all variables included inthe study. The sample was representa-tive of the student population atthis university for full-time(
c
2
goodness of fit
 ¼
0
:
10
;
 
 ¼
 .75), under-graduate (
c
2
goodness of fit
 ¼
1
:
98
;
 
 ¼
.16), and Latino students(
c
2
goodness of fit
 ¼
1
:
29
;
 P 
¼
.26)butover-represented female students(
c
2
goodness of fit
 ¼
24
:
5
;
 
 ¼
 .01). Lessthan a third of the sample reportedresiding on-campus (29%). Thosewho reported residing off-campuseither lived with roommates (35%)or had other arrangements (36%),such as living by themselves (18%)or with their parents (4%). Half of the students (50.3%) said they had ajob in addition to attending college.Those who reported the number of hours worked (n
 ¼
 164) worked anaverage of 18.2 h/wk (SD, 9.3 h/wk).The majority of students (79%) re-ported having health insurance,which was obtained primarily fromtheir parents (67%) or the university(22%). Few students (12%) reportedhavingnocreditcarddebt.Themajor-ity of participants were female (73%),single (73%), and 18
24 years of age(72%). Eight percent reported beingHispanic or Latino.Food insecurity affected 59% of students. Participation in food assis-tance programs (emergency foodfrom a church, food pantry/bank, oremergency kitchen; Special Supple-mental Nutrition Program forWomen, Infants and Children; Sup-plemental Nutrition Assistance Pro-gram [SNAP]/food stamps; or privateorganizations) reached 27% of thesample. Most of these were SNAP re-cipients (n
 ¼
 67; 70%). Table 3 pre-sents the results of the
 󿬁
nalmultivariatelogisticregressionmodel.The value (
 P 
 ¼
 .74) for the Hosmer-Lemeshow test indicated good model
󿬁
t. Income
 <
 $15,000 was the stron-gest correlate of food insecurityamong this sample of students (oddsratio [OR], 2.23; 95% con
󿬁
dence in-terval [CI], 1.07
4.63). Similarly, stu-dents reporting fair or poor healthwere more likely to be food insecure(OR, 2.08; 95% CI, 1.07
4.63). Em-ployed students and those partici-pating in food assistance programswere also more likely to be food inse-cure (OR, 1.73, 95% CI, 1.04
2.88;and OR, 1.91, 95% CI, 1.05
3.45,respectively). However, students witha grade point average of 
 $
 3.1 were60% less likely to be food insecure(OR, 0.40; 95% CI, 0.22
0.69). No sig-ni
󿬁
cant associations were found withliving arrangement, health insurancestatus, physical activity, enrollmentstatus, or demographic factors.
DISCUSSION
Thecurrentstudyfoundthattheprev-alenceoffoodinsecurity(59%)amonga sampleof college students attendinga midsize rural university in Oregonwas higher than that of the generalpopulation (15%), or even other col-lege student populations (eg, 39%among studentsat the CityUniversityofNewYork 
;45%amongstudentsatthe University of Hawai'i at Manoa
).Food insecurity is an indicator of eco-nomic hardship that college studentsare facing. A recent story in
 The  Atlantic 
pointed out that across thecountry, stretching
 󿬁
nancial aid dol-lars or wages from part-time work hasbecome more challenging for collegestudents during the Great Recession,partly because
 ‘‘
parents have fewer re-sources to help out, there is greatercompetition for work-study jobs, andmany schools have increased tuitionto cover their expenses.
’’
 Without
2 Patton-L
opez et al Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior
 
 Volume
-
, Number
-
, 2014
 
Table 1.
 Description of Correlates of Food Insecurity Among Students at a Midsize Rural University, Oregon
Correlate Question Level Values
Self-reported health How would you rate your overallhealth?Discrete 0
¼
excellent, very good, good1
¼
fair, poorModerate physical activity How often do you participate in atleast moderate physical activity?(Examples of moderate physicalactivity: walking, water aerobics,bicycling
 <
 10 mph, tennis[doubles], ballroom dancing,general gardening)Discrete 0
¼
0–2 d/wk 1
¼
$
3 d/wk Having health insurance Do you currently have healthinsurance?Discrete 0
¼
no1
¼
yesHaving a campus meal plan Do you have a campus meal plan? Discrete 0
¼
no1
¼
yesParticipating in foodassistance programsHave you ever participated in any of the following food assistanceprograms: emergency food from achurch, food pantry/bank, oremergency kitchen; SpecialSupplemental NutritionProgramforWomen, Infants, and Children;Supplemental Nutrition AssistanceProgram (formerly known as foodstamps); private organizations;other? Please select all that apply.Discrete 0
¼
no participation1
¼
participation in any foodassistance programLiving arrangement Where do you currently live? Discrete 0
¼
livesoffcampus(withroommates,other)1
¼
lives on campusCredit card debt How much credit card debt do youcurrently have?Discrete 0
¼
#
$499;
$
$5001
¼
noneUndergraduate student At Western, are you a
.
? Discrete 0
¼
graduate student, other1
¼
undergraduate studentFull-time student Do you attend Western as a full-timeor part-time student?Discrete 0
¼
part-time student1
¼
full-time studentGrade point average (
$
3.1) What is your grade point average? Discrete 0
¼
<
 3.11
¼
$
3.1Receives financial aid Do you currently receive financial aid(including scholarships, private andfederal loans, and/or grants)?Discrete 0
¼
no1
¼
yesEmployed Besides attending college, do youhave a job?Discrete 0
¼
no1
¼
yesIncome What is your annual income? Discrete 0
¼
$
$15,0001
¼
<
 $15,000Sex What is your sex? Discrete 0
¼
male1
¼
femaleSingle What is your marital status? Discrete 0
¼
married, living with partner1
¼
never married (single)Latino Are you Hispanic or Latino? Discrete 0
¼
no1
¼
yes Age What is your age (in years)? Discrete 0
¼
$
251
¼
18–24
 Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior
 
 Volume
-
, Number
-
, 2014 Patton-L
opez et al 3

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