“I don’t want to say I’m broke”:
Student experiences of food insecurity at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario, Canada
Keywords:food insecurity; university students; health; poverty; inequities; Canada
Food insecurity, the inadequate or insecure access to food because of financial constraints, is an important public health concern, associated with poor physical and mental health. Recent research among post-secondary students shows that it also has consequences for academic performance; food insecure students are more likely to have lower grades and to drop out. This qualitative study aimed to describe the experiences of Queen’s University students who didn’t have enough money for food or who worried about having enough money for food. We conducted semi-structured interviews with 12 undergraduate, 10 graduate and 5 professional students. Participants included 14 students of colour and 2 Indigenous students. All described chronic food insecurity during their time at Queen’s, including 9 who experienced severe food insecurity, skipping meals and going hungry. Most participants cycled between different levels of food insecurity (severe, moderate, and marginal) depending on the availability of resources, though a few were severely or moderately food insecure on an ongoing basis. None escaped worry and anxiety about being able to properly feed themselves. Our sampling strategy netted a more diverse set of students than previously described in the literature on post-secondary student food insecurity, including first-generation Canadians, international students, Indigenous students, law students and undergraduate students transitioning to independent living. Our results demonstrate the human costs of market approaches to post-secondary education and lend support to the growing campaign in Canada for a basic income that includes young people.
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Copyright (c) 2021 Elaine Power, Julie Dietrich, Zoe Walter, Susan Belyea
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