Brittany M. Williams, David J. Thompson, Sonja Ardoin, Ali Brooks

A content analysis of qualitative research on college student food insecurity in the United States

  • Education

AbstractUsing a content analysis methodology, we examined 15 peer‐reviewed articles published between 2009 and 2019 that used qualitative and mixed methods approaches to explore how college and university students experience food insecurity. Concerningly, there was limited variety in the methods employed across these articles and more discussion of methodology was needed. Despite this, our analysis of student statements in these articles yielded three common themes: (1) co‐occurring basic needs; (2) academic, physical, psychological, and social effects of food insecurity; and (3) institutional satisfaction and/or critique. We include implications for research and practice.Context and implicationsRationale for the studyFew qualitative studies centre students' food insecurity experiences in the United States. We examined available research to unearth commonalities across student narratives while connecting food insecurity to broader social class inequality in higher education.Why the new findings matterOur findings underscore the urgent need for additional qualitative food insecurity scholarship that foregrounds student voices. Future researchers examining food insecurity should consider: (a) the nuances of on‐campus food insecurity, (b) the impact of food insecurity on student success, and (c) the linkages between food insecurity and social class in higher education.Implications for policy makersCampus leaders and policy makers can help address campus food insecurity by building holistic wraparound systems to support the multi‐faceted needs of students facing food insecurity. To do this, policy makers and leaders must begin to understand food insecurity as more than a statistic and acknowledge the human experiences of those it affects.

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