Food insecurity negatively impacts academic performance

Irene van Woerden, Daniel Hruschka, Meg Bruening

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

42 Scopus citations


Recent research has documented high rates of food insecurity among university students, particularly students in their first year. Food insecurity among university students has been linked to poorer self-reported health and academic outcomes. However, few studies have linked reports of food insecurity to objective student outcomes. In this study, we examine how food insecurity is associated with first-year university students' (n = 591) academic performance, adjusting for objective measures of high school academic performance and self-reported indicators of socioeconomic background. Zero- and one-inflated beta regression was used to examine if food insecurity predicted grade point average (GPA) in the fall 2015 and spring 2016 semesters. Logistic regression was used to determine if food insecurity at the end of the fall 2015 and spring 2016 semesters was a predictor of retention to fall 2016. Food-insecure students had a significantly lower GPA than food-secure students. In fall 2015, 59% of food-insecure students obtained at least a “B” grade (GPA = 3.00); our models suggest this percentage would increase to 72% if these same students were food secure. Food-insecure students were less likely to be enrolled in fall 2016 than food-secure students (OR = 0.72, 95% CI [0.41, 1.27]), though this difference was not statistically significant. These results indicate that food insecurity negatively impacts first-year university students' academic performance, even after adjusting for high school academic performance and socioeconomic background. Students GPA, and potentially university retention rates, may increase if food insecurity on campus is minimized.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere1864
JournalJournal of Public Affairs
Issue number3
StatePublished - Aug 2019

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Public Administration
  • Political Science and International Relations


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