Year of Publication


Degree Name

Master of Science in Nutrition and Food Systems (MSNFS)

Document Type

Master's Thesis


Agriculture, Food and Environment


Dietetics and Human Nutrition

First Advisor

Dr. Tammy J. Stephenson


Background: College food insecurity (CFI) is a prevalent social justice and public health issue in the U.S. with the prevalence ranging between 15-59%. Though numerous quantitative studies were first conducted in the past decade, little qualitative research was conducted to assess CFI.

Objective: To explore and deeply understand the contexts of CFI at a land-grant university in Kentucky.

Methods: This qualitative study used a validated food insecurity survey tool and hour-long focus groups that were audio recorded and transcribed. Three theoretical models were combined into an adapted model and utilized for the thematic analysis.

Results: Thirty-three students participated in one of eight different focus groups. Among participants, 72.7% were female, 81.9% were undergraduate students, and 63.6% were food insecure. Access-related themes included transportation, time-related issues, awareness of resources, coping strategies and suggestions for improvements; availability-related themes consisted of city- and campus-wide availability of food choices and coping strategies; utilization-related themes constituted dietary needs and coping strategies; and stability-related themes involved disrupted element(s) of food security and their effects on well-being and academics.

Conclusion: All elements of food security need to be fulfilled to achieve a sustainable food security. For future CFI studies, the use of theoretical framework(s) is recommended.

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

Funding Information

Inclusive and Excellence Grant from the UK Office of Institutional Diversity

AD Astra Grant