Hunger in Higher Education: Experiences and Correlates of Food Insecurity among Wisconsin Undergraduates from Low-Income Families
Broton, Katharine M.
Weaver, Kari E.
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There is growing awareness that a substantial share of undergraduates are food insecure, potentially undermining investments in higher education and hindering upward social mobility. This mixed-methods paper uses survey and interview data from low-income students at 42 public colleges and universities in Wisconsin to illuminate the day-to-day experiences of food insecurity and examine how food security status varies across background characteristics. Results indicate that students who grew up in food insecure homes, self-identify as a racial/ethnic minority, live off-campus, and attend college in an urban area are significantly more likely to report the lowest level of food security, often associated with hunger. Students explain that challenges stemming from the interrelationship of lack of time and inadequate money are their biggest barriers to food security. Most rely on friends or family for support, but few students draw on the social safety net, in part due to eligibility restrictions. In recognition of the diversity of students’ experiences, the authors discuss the need for a multi-faceted response to promote food security and student success.