Food insecurity may impact college graduation rates, study finds

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Many college students are stressed about not having enough to eat

When children experience food insecurity, it can affect everything from their performance in school to their development and health outcomes. Now, researchers from Johns Hopkins University School of Public Health found that experiencing food insecurity as a college student can have similarly detrimental outcomes.

According to their findings, students who experience food insecurity during their college years may have a harder time graduating or pursuing advanced degrees.

How food-related stress impacts school

For the study, the researchers analyzed data from over 1,500 college students enrolled in the Panel Study of Income Dynamics. The participants were in college in the early 2000s, and they kept up with study questionnaires until 2017. Both in college and post-college, the participants answered questions about their lives at home and their experiences with food insecurity. 

It became clear to the researchers that there was a link between college graduation rates and food insecurity. The study showed that food insecurity made the students 43% less likely to achieve an associate’s or a bachelor’s degree. It also lowered the likelihood of earning an advanced degree by more than 60%.

This relationship was even more pronounced for participants who were the first in their families to go to college. Forty-seven percent of first-generation college students who struggled with food insecurity graduated from college, compared to 59% of first-generation, food-secure college students. 

“These results suggest that we really need robust policies to address food insecurity among college students, especially now with the higher food insecurity levels observed during the COVID-19 pandemic,” said researcher Julia Wolfson, Ph.D. 

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