A Mixed-Method Approach of Exploring the Ways Food Access Impacts the Quality of Life of College of Agriculture and Life Science Students at Virginia Tech

TR Number



Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title


Virginia Tech


Food insecurity has been documented on college campuses. Exploring the barriers that factor into food access can provide insight into how to combat food insecurity in higher education. Furthermore, exploring how these barriers play a role in students' Quality of Life (QoL) can help improve a student's success while in school. Little research has been done on food access and its impact on QoL, and research is completely absent in regard to its effects on agriculture students specifically. As the desire for degrees increases, students from more diverse backgrounds are attracted to college. Many students from underrepresented populations experience barriers to attaining a degree that other students may not. First-generation students, being the first in their family to attend college and have little to no knowledge of how to navigate the challenges of degree attainment., International students experience living in a completely different culture and having to adjust to a new country and a new educational environment. This mixed-method study focused on how food access barriers impact the QoL of first-generation, international, rural, and urban College of Agriculture and Life Science students at Virginia Tech. The study involved a concurrent phase (1) of a cross-sectional survey consisting of multiple choice and open-ended questions. The sequential phase (2) of the study constructed interview questions from themes found in phase 1 and then were used to interview students. Once interviews were completed, phase 1 and phase 2 results were then compared to provide a broad view of how food access impacts QoL for agriculture students. The results from the study showed an adjusted R square explained .277 or 27% of the variance in the dependent variable QoL to be affected by the independent variables. The independent variables of food access, first-generation, Asian, and undergraduate classification of senior were shown to be significant in the first stepwise linear regression model. In the 6 stepwise linear regression models that examined the QoL of students based on department/schools, each model was found to be significant and have food access as significant predictor variable. An additional 6 stepwise linear regression models were completed to examine the significant independent variables from the department/school QoL scores models. The QoL scores explored were Asian, Hispanic/Latino, first-generation, international, rural, and undergraduate senior status and all showed food access as a predictor value to impact QoL. In addition, lack of awareness of resources, lack of options that are affordable and available, demanding schedules, running out of meal plan money, lack of acknowledgment of food access concerns, and environment impacted students' ability to access food. Students also voiced that lack of access to food impacted their QoL in the following ways: concentrating in class, studying, attending social events, maintaining a positive physical and mental health status. The impact of food access is a multidimensional problem that was shown to impact the QoL of CALS students at Virginia Tech. Preventing hunger and overcoming food access barriers are not problems to solve overnight. Finding solutions will take time and dedication from leadership, faculty, staff, and students. In addition, just because you may not be experiencing low food access doesn't mean you never will or that your friends are not going through the situation. Demonstrating love, empathy, and kindness when talking about hunger will be needed to lead the fight against this all-too-prevalent problem.



Food Access, Quality of Life (QoL), First-Generation, International, Rural, Urban, Agriculture Students