Examining the relationship between food security and perceived health among Memorial University students

Authors

  • Lisa Blundell, RD, MPH Division of Community Health and Humanities, Faculty of Medicine, Memorial University of Newfoundland
  • Maria Mathews, PhD Department of Family Medicine, Schulich School of Medicine and Dentistry, Western University

DOI:

https://doi.org/10.15353/cfs-rcea.v8i3.414

Keywords:

food supply, food insecurity, hunger, student health services, universities, population health

Abstract

Abstract

Objectives: The prevalence of student food insecurity at Memorial University of Newfoundland (MUN) is relatively high (58.0%) compared to the national population (12.7%). We explored the relationship between food security status, perceived health, and student experience among MUN students.

Methods: Through an online survey of returning MUN students at the St. John’s campus, we assessed food security using Statistics Canada’s Canadian Household Food Security Survey Module (HFSSM), and self-reported physical health, mental health, and stress. We used logistic regression to compare health and stress ratings between students of different food security levels. We thematically coded open-ended responses to describe students’ experiences related to food insecurity.

Results: Among the 967 study eligible students, 39.9% were considered food insecure, 28.2% were moderately food insecure, and 11.7% were severely food insecure. After controlling for significant predictors, students who were moderately or severely food insecure were 1.72 [95% CI:(1.20,2.48)] and 2.81 [95% CI:(1.79,4.42)] times as likely to rate their physical health as ‘fair’ or ‘poor’ than food secure students, and 1.66 [95% CI:( 1.22,2.27)] and 4.23 [95% CI: (2.71-6.60] times as likely to rate their mental health as ‘fair’ or ‘poor’ than food secure students, respectively.

Conclusion: Food security level experienced by MUN students was closely related to their perceived physical and mental health. As food security level worsened among participants, their self-reported physical and mental health also worsened. Health professionals working with university student populations should screen for food security and consider its relationship to students’ health.

Author Biographies

Lisa Blundell, RD, MPH, Division of Community Health and Humanities, Faculty of Medicine, Memorial University of Newfoundland

Lisa is a Registered Dietitian and a recipient of the National Morgan Medal, presented by the Canadian Foundation for Dietetic Research. She completed the dietetics program at Acadia University and then obtained her Master in Public Health, which included a dietetic internship practicum within Eastern Health of Newfoundland. She is currently a doctoral student at Memorial University of Newfoundland in the Division of Community Health and Humanities. Lisa has diverse research interests including health and aging, food security among post-secondary students, client-centered care, and dietetic counselling for people living with ostomies.

Maria Mathews, PhD, Department of Family Medicine, Schulich School of Medicine and Dentistry, Western University

Maria Mathews, PhD is a Professor in the Department of Family Medicine at Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry, Western University. She was previously a Professor in the Division of Community Health & Humanities, Memorial University of Newfoundland. She holds a PhD in Health Policy, Management, and Evaluation from the University of Toronto and a Masters in Health Services Administration from the University of Alberta. Her research interests include the physician workforce, primary health care, access to care, and health care in rural communities.

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Published

2021-10-30

How to Cite

Blundell, L., & Mathews, M. (2021). Examining the relationship between food security and perceived health among Memorial University students. Canadian Food Studies / La Revue Canadienne Des études Sur l’alimentation, 8(3). https://doi.org/10.15353/cfs-rcea.v8i3.414