Introduction: Food insecurity has emerged as a public health problem among college students in Appalachia, jeopardizing their physical, mental, and emotional health and academic success. Campus food pantries have been established in this region, but no data are available concerning student use or perception of services.
Purpose: This study measured use and perceptions of a campus food pantry by students at a mid-sized university in rural North Carolina.
Methods: An online questionnaire collected behavioral and perceptual data, and follow-up interviews explored these variables. Descriptive statistics with significance at p<0.05 and thematic analytical procedures were used.
Results: Questionnaires were submitted by 896 of 6000 recruited students (14.9%), and four students granted interviews. Food insecurity affected 437 (48.8%) of participants, of whom 76 (17.4%) were pantry shoppers. Shoppers (n = 94) were 27.7% males, 65.1% females, and 7.2% non-cisgender, 63.8% non-Hispanic white, 84.5% undergraduate, and 14.3% graduate students. Reasons for non-pantry use by food insecure students included: others need it more (30.1%) and feel embarrassed (20.7%). Benefits of pantry use were: spent more on necessities (56.4%) and job performance improved (18.1%). Shoppers perceived the pantry’s physical environment most favorably and food offerings less favorably.
Implications: The low use of the campus food pantry by food insecure students suggests that these students may be jeopardizing their physical and mental health and academic success. Greater efforts by faculty, academic advisers, and student leaders are needed to promote pantry use and decrease the associated stigma.
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McArthur LH, Fasczewski KS, Farris AR, Petrone M. Use and perceptions of a campus food pantry among food insecure college students: an exploratory study from Appalachia. J Appal Health 2020;2(2):7–23. DOI: https://doi.org/10.13023/jah.0202.02.