Society for Nutrition Education and Behavior Highlights Food and Nutrition Insecurity Among College Students

by Ella

In a recently published position paper in the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior, the Society for Nutrition Education and Behavior (SNEB) has underscored its unwavering stance on the vulnerability of college students, particularly those hailing from underserved communities, to food and nutrition insecurity. This comprehensive analysis combines research insights, measurement data, and prospective policy remedies to shed light on the pressing issue.

President of SNEB, Dr. Yenory Hernandez Garbanzo, articulated the significance of the position paper, stating, “This document illuminates the pivotal issue of food insecurity among college students. It underscores the necessity of a systemic approach and the active participation of students in advocating for their right to nourishment while contributing to healthier diets, benefiting both individuals and the environment. Undoubtedly, food and nutrition education stands as a powerful instrument for steering this transformation.”


The lead author, Dr. Meg Bruening, from the Department of Nutritional Sciences at The College of Health and Human Development, The Pennsylvania State University, elucidated the distinction between food insecurity and nutrition insecurity, stating, “Food insecurity denotes irregular access to food, whereas nutrition insecurity encompasses sporadic access and availability of food that sustains healthy bodies and aids in disease prevention and management.”


Food and nutrition security, it is emphasized, is a product of intricate socioecological factors. College students often grapple with constraints related to time and resources, occasionally compelled to make trade-offs between sustenance and other financial obligations.


Dr. Bruening elaborated on the situation, saying, “College campuses have been likened to food deserts, perpetuating the uneven accessibility of nourishing options for young adults pursuing higher education, who often contend with limited access to wholesome foods.”


For college students, the disparities in food insecurity are exacerbated. Research indicates that these disparities manifest as unhealthy dietary habits, disrupted eating patterns, and reduced sleep. Moreover, students grappling with food insecurity are three times more likely to experience mental health challenges compared to their food-secure counterparts.

On-campus initiatives aimed at directly providing sustenance to students in need, such as food pantries, are among the most common mechanisms used to address food insecurity. Regrettably, these programs are often fraught with challenges including the absence of robust evaluation systems, insufficient support, and inadequate infrastructure.

Dr. Bruening remarked, “Across the nation, there have been concerted efforts in the form of campus task forces and committees to tackle food insecurity. The establishment of these task forces represents an initial phase of action, serving as a pivotal step in engaging key stakeholders, assessing opportunities and obstacles, coordinating efforts, and fostering awareness within campus and university systems.”

Taking tangible steps to make substantial improvements in food and nutrition security for college students is imperative. Recommendations derived from the most up-to-date evidence include:

1. Facilitating high-quality research on food insecurity assessment measures and screening tools.

2. Sustaining national surveillance initiatives to monitor food insecurity among college students.

3. Conducting more robust research to ascertain the long-term impact of food insecurity on health and other outcomes.

4. Implementing targeted interventions for consistently underserved subpopulations.

5. Fostering enhanced interdisciplinary collaboration in support of college students.

6. Channeling investments towards expanding food assistance programs for those in need.

7. Raising awareness regarding the availability of existing resources for students experiencing food insecurity.

8. Placing greater emphasis on the distinctive health needs of emerging adults.

In conclusion, Dr. Bruening emphasized, “Our endeavor must encompass a broader spectrum of training for future nutrition educators, encompassing policy, systems, and environmental changes to address the fundamental causes of food and nutrition security.”



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