Objective: This study compared severity of food insecurity, characteristics, and behaviors of college students with and without diagnosed medical disorders.

Design: Data were collected using a cross-sectional online questionnaire. Variables measured were food security status, disorders, coping strategies, and perceived barriers to food access. Descriptive and inferential statistics examined associations and compared groups. Statistical significance was p≤0.05.

Setting: Data were collected at Appalachian State University in North Carolina.

Participants: The sample was 247 food insecure students, of whom 60% were females, 50% 3rd- and 4th-year students, and 75% whites.

Results: Medical disorders were reported by 67.2% of food insecure students, and a greater proportion of students with than without disorders experienced very low food security (63.3% vs. 43.2%, p=0.003). The most common disorder categories were psychiatric (40.5%) and gastrointestinal (31.6%). Characteristics of food insecure students with disorders included female gender, suboptimal academic performance, employed, off-campus residence. Coping strategies used by students with and without disorders, respectively, to improve food access, included brought food back to school after visiting family, friends, significant others (90.9% vs. 63.0%) and ate less healthy food so you could eat more (77.7% vs. 49.4%). Perceived barriers among students with disorders included feel overwhelmed making food choices (12.7%) and meal plan runs out (10.2%). Food insecure students with disorders made greater use of coping strategies and identified more perceived barriers.

Conclusions: Food insecure students with disorders experienced more severe food deprivation and require multidimensional food assistance programs beyond those generally available on college campuses.



Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Recommended Citation

McArthur LH, Gutschall M, Fasczewski KS, Jackson A. Food insecurity among college students with and without medical disorders at a university in Appalachia. J Appalach Health 2020;2(2):36–48. DOI: https://doi.org/10.13023/jah.0202.04.