Food insecure college students and objective measurements of their unused meal plans

Irene Van Woerden, Daniel Hruschka, Sonia Vega-López, David R. Schaefer, Marc Adams, Meg Bruening

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

26 Scopus citations


Some researchers have proposed the prevalence of food insecurity among college students is high due to students’ meal plans providing insufficient meals. The association between college students’ food security status and their meal plans have not yet been examined. In this study, United States (US) first year college students (N = 534) self-reported their food security status in the Fall 2015 and/or Spring 2016 semester(s). Objective measures of students’ meal plans were obtained from the university. Logistic generalized estimating equations (GEEs) were used to determine if students’ meal plan, and meal plan use, predicted food insecurity. Linear GEEs were used to examine several potential reasons for lower meal plan use. We found that students did not use all of their available meals. Compared to students on the most expensive (unlimited) meal plan, students on the cheapest (8 meals/week) meal plan were the most likely to report food insecurity (OR = 2.2, 95% CI = 1.2, 4.1). However, in the Fall semester, 26% of students on unlimited meal plans also reported food insecurity. For students on the 180 meals/semester meal plan, food insecurity was associated with using fewer meals (OR = 0.9, 95% CI = 0.8, 1.0). Students who worked tended to use their meal plan less (β = −1.3, 95% CI = −2.3, −0.3). Students are reporting food insecurity while having meals left in their meal plan.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number904
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2019


  • College
  • Dining halls
  • Food insecurity
  • Freshmen
  • Meal plans
  • Students
  • University

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Food Science
  • Nutrition and Dietetics


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