Student food insecurity: The skeleton in the university closet

Roger Hughes*, Irene Serebryanikova, Katherine Donaldson, Michael Leveritt

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

134 Citations (Scopus)


Aim: Food security is an important nutrition issue among vulnerable population groups such as the young and socioeconomically disadvantaged. The present study sought to identify and describe the prevalence, distribution and severity of food insecurity, and related behavioural adaptations, among a sample of Australian university students. Methods: A cross-sectional survey design involving a self-administered questionnaire consisting of 39 food security-related and 15 demographic questions administered among a sample of university students. Results: A sample of 399 students completed questionnaires representing a response rate of 71.5% of students invited to participate. Sample demography was representative of the total student population except for being overrepresented by full-time and international students. Food insecurity was evident in the student sample ranging from 12.7% to 46.5% (based on method of analysis). Student food insecurity was significantly associated with those renting, boarding or sharing accommodation, with low incomes or receiving government assistance. Coping strategies developed by students focused on income generation and austerity measures, included living with parents, working more than 10 hours per week outside of university and borrowing money and food. Students who reported food insecurity were more likely to rate their overall health status lower than those who were food secure. Conclusion: The present study suggests university students are at significant risk of food insecurity in part attributed to inadequate income support. Further research is required to assess the broader determinants of food insecurity and appropriate strategy responses, including social support policies, in this population group.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)27-32
Number of pages6
JournalNutrition and Dietetics
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2011
Externally publishedYes


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