Student food insecurity indicative of larger poverty problem

December 15, 2017

Rising tuition rates and post-secondary costs are creating food insecurity for nearly 40 per cent of university students who responded to a recent survey at the University of Saskatchewan.  

A newly published study in the Journal of Hunger and Environmental Nutrition surveyed a random sample of 4,500 students from the University of Saskatchewan. About 30 percent of students (1,359) responded to survey questions.

About 40 per cent of students reported some degree of food insecurity, from marginal (11 per cent), to moderate (21 per cent), to severe (7.5 per cent).

International students are twice as likely to experience food insecurity when compared to non-international students. Students who are parents are also 1.73 times more likely to be food insecure than students who are not parents.

The study, “Student Food Insecurity: Examining Barriers to Higher Education at the University of Saskatchewan,” was conducted by Caitlin Olauson (Community Health and Epidemiology Master’s program graduate), Dr. Rachel Engler-Stringer (SPHERU researcher)­, along with Dr. Hassan Vatanparast (Nutrition and School of Public Health) and Rita Hanoski (Student Health Services, University of Saskatchewan).

“A food drive isn’t the solution to help end food insecurity for students pursuing post-secondary education,” Engler-Stringer said. “We must take a look at the largest expenses for students, such as housing and tuition. It’s time for universities, and governments, to address issues that are causing food insecurity.”  

Food insecurity is indicative of a larger problem students face – poverty, said Engler-Stringer.

Students who experienced food insecurity said different aspects of their lives were affected, including their mental and physical health, academic standing, and social lives. About 30 per cent of food insecure students dropped a course within the last year. In order to cope students were working more, borrowing more money, and delaying or not buying textbooks.

The random sample study was the first of its kind, and most rigorous to date in Canada on student food insecurity.

The Saskatchewan Population Health and Evaluation Research Unit (SPHERU) is an interdisciplinary, bi-university unit at the University of Saskatchewan and the University of Regina. SPHERU conducts intervention research to address issues of health inequity among vulnerable populations.

For the full study.

Media coverage: College of Medicine - uSaskEaglefeather News, MBC, CBC Saskatchewan, Saskatoon Star Phoenix, Regina Leader Post


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