Student food insecurity
The Guelph Lab is working with a range of partners locally and nationally to address food insecurity amongst university students.
“food insecurity is the inability to acquire or consume an adequate diet quality or sufficient quantity of food in socially acceptable ways, or the uncertainty that one will be able to do so”
- Health Canada
The City and University have the opportunity to be in at the forefront of campuses and communities responding to food insecurity. The community has set ambitious goals to improve food access, and the Lab’s research has helped identify the thousands of students who live, work and study in Guelph as one of the populations at risk locally.
The Lab is now part of the local and national response, including:
Research on food insecurity amongst students at the University of Guelph
Linking University and community responses to food insecurity via our connections to community partners and through participation on the Our Food Future “Nutritious Foods Work Stream”
Building a network – convening 8 Ontario universities in Guelph in Oct 2019, co-authoring an op-ed on food insecurity and COVID-19 (published in University Affairs), and partnering with UBC to host national online events (Fall 2020)
There is growing evidence significant numbers of students attending our universities are food insecure. A number of recent studies suggest between 30 and 45% of all students experience some form of food insecurity, and between 8 and 15% experience severe food insecurity. (See, for example, the “ADDRESSING FOOD INSECURITY AT UBC” report to the UBC board 2019; Blundell et al. 2019 (Memorial); Silverthorn, D. 2016 (Brock, UCalgary, Dalhousie, Lakehead, Ryerson); Reynolds et al. 2018 (St. Francis Xavier); Olauson et al. 2018 (U Saskatoon); as well as recent surveying at both U of Guelph and McMaster due to be published soon).
Strong connections exist between food insecurity and risk of chronic disease and poor mental health and students experiencing food insecurity are more likely than food-secure students to: have a low grade point average (Maroto et al. 2014); reduce course load or drop out (Gallegos et al. 2013); have difficulty concentrating (Munro et al. 2013); struggle accessing adequate fruits and vegetables (Gallegos et al. 2013); and, rate their general health as fair or poor (Hughes et al. 2011).
Faced with the complex underlying causes of food insecurity – income, tuition costs, living costs, access to good food and food deserts, food and financial literacy, financial aid – Universities are grappling with how best to support their students.
The Guelph Lab began working on this challenge in 2018 after we were approached by Meal Exchange (MX), a national student food organization. MX had already conducted research on five Canadian campuses, and found that nearly two in five students experienced some form of food insecurity. We began by co-facilitating workshops with Meal Exchange at Lakehead University. Since then, we have worked with a number of partners, including:
The Arrell Food Institute
Student Affairs, University Guelph
Universities Fighting World Hunger
Dr. Laura Forbes, Dr. Phil Loring