Background: Results of a 2018 survey conducted by OHSU’s Food Insecurity Taskforce showed approximately 25% of student respondents (n=1,133) were classified as food insecure,1 consistent with results of other surveys of undergraduate and graduate health professional students (GHPS) (11.8-42%2–7). Food insecurity contributes to negative physical, mental, and academic outcomes, including GPA and degree completion5,8–11. In May 2020, a program offering grocery staples to students was created to address food insecurity at OHSU. This program evolved into the Food Resource Center (FRC), which has served over 900 individual students through nearly 3,200 encounters. Though food pantries are common on college campuses, limited data is available describing the impact of these programs on students and food security.
Objective: The purpose of this study was to explore the impact of the FRC on OHSU student food security and to identify benefits of and barriers to its use to help guide future directions. Methods: Design: Cross-sectional, anonymous, voluntary, online survey; analysis using Excel, SPSS.
Setting: Health science university offering graduate degrees Participants: All students (n=~3200) were invited to participate through email, OHSU communications Intervention/Instrument: Survey questions included: demographics, validated food insecurity screening questionnaires, FRC-specific questions including impact, barriers to use.
Results: Of students who participated in the survey (n=269), 68.8% had used the FRC at least once. Of students who completed the food security questions (n=254), 41.4% were classified as food insecure by the 2-item and/or 6-item screen. Although the odds of being classified as food insecure was not associated with gender identity, odds were higher among students self-identifying as multi-racial (OR 4.29, 95% CI 1.45-12.71) and of Hispanic ethnicity (OR 3.56, 95% CI 1.49-8.50). Students were more likely to use the FRC if they were categorized as food insecure based on the 2-item (OR 2.3, 95% CI 1.3-4.2) and 6-item (OR 3.9, 95% CI 2.0-7.6) screeners. Self-reported gender or race/ethnicity did not affect FRC utilization. Individual impacts of using the FRC included financial benefits, time benefits, and trying new foods/recipes. Inconvenient hours, location, transportation barriers, uncertainty about how to use the FRC, and stigma were the most often cited barriers to using the FRC.
Conclusions: When compared with earlier surveys of OHSU student food security, this survey, in which the majority of students had used the FRC, found a higher rate of food insecurity (41.4% vs 25%). Use of the FRC was not associated with gender, race, or ethnicity, although those who did use the FRC were more likely to be classified as food-insecure, possibly explaining the higher rate of food insecurity among OHSU students compared with previous surveys. Although the results of this survey cannot be generalized to the entire OHSU student body, they do show that the FRC is being used by at least some students who need it, as further evidenced by the qualitative impacts of the FRC described above. Barriers to using the FRC were primarily logistical and can be addressed with practical solutions to increase student access.
PI: Diane Stadler
Mentor(s): Jodi Demunter & Jen Cai