Predicting Food Insecurity Among UK University Students During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Emily K Round*, Sarah Weatherston, Paul B Stretesky, Margaret Anne Defeyter

*Corresponding author for this work

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Abstract

Objective:
The present study investigated potential predictors of food insecurity among UK university students during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Design:
Close-ended questionnaire administered to a cross-sectional sample of UK university students.

Setting:
Data were collected using an online survey platform in October 2020, during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Participants:
A nationally representative sample of UK university students (n 640).

Results:
Odds ratios (OR) obtained from logistic regression were statistically significant for three measures of economic hardship. First, students who relied on financial aid from student loans were 1·9 times more likely to report being food insecure than students who did not rely on financial aid from student loans. Second, students who could not pay their utility bill (v. those that could pay) were 3·1 times the odds of being food insecure. Finally, as perceived difficulty in paying for accommodation increased across the sample, the odds of being food insecure also increased (OR = 1·9). We also found that students who were recently ill were 2·2 times more likely to be food insecure compared with students who were not recently ill. We did not find any evidence that testing positive for COVID-19 predicted food insecurity, and university supplied food parcels/boxes did not reduce student food insecurity.

Conclusions:
Both economic factors and illness play a significant role in self-reported food insecurity in higher education students during pandemic lockdown. Further research is needed to explore food insecurity, economic factors and illness outside of a pandemic context.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere126
Pages (from-to)1-11
Number of pages11
JournalPublic Health Nutrition
Volume27
Issue number1
Early online date3 May 2024
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 3 May 2024

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