Most of us assume that the classic “Freshman 15″ comes from an overabundance of food. Too much snacking and not enough physical activity as first year college students make the transition into the routine of higher education. But maybe the feared Freshman 15 isn’t just related to the amount of food college students have access to, it’s the kind of food that they have access to. Or, more rightly put, what they don’t have access to.
A new study shows that actually, 60% of college students are food insecure, meaning that they have limited or uncertain access to nutritious foods. The study was a small one, performed at an university in Oregon, but it adds to the very important overall discussion of food insecurity.
To put the study’s number in perspective, in the United States overall, 14.5% of American households were food insecure in 2012. In comparison, the high rate of food insecurity in college students is alarming, especially given that during the taxing time of studying, nutritious food is a core part of maintaining students’ physical and mental health.
For the students in the study, food also had an overall affect on their scholarly performance, with students that were food insecure more likely to have a GPA of 3.1 or less than their peers who had proper access to nutritious food.
“Based on other research that’s been done, we expected some amount of food concerns among college students,” said Daniel López-Cevallos, associate director of research at OSU’s Center for Latino/a Studies and Engagement on the Oregon State University website. “But it was shocking to find food insecurity of this severity. Several recent trends may be combining to cause this.”
Those factors include rising rising college costs, more low-income and first-generation students attending college and changing demographics.
While the study is small, it highlights the importance of more research to be done on the topic, because if we continue to put an importance on higher education, than we need to ensure that programs are put into place so that students can eat real, nutritious food.
The ‘Freshman 15′ isn’t just a problem of appearance after all, it’s a problem of health and performance, and one that we need to think seriously about addressing by making sure that all college students have access to real food.
Photo Credit: Ed Yourdon