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Food Insecurity and Higher Education

Lack of food access linked to poor graduation rates.

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Person standing with a jar that says "coins for college" to represent food insecurity

Feeding America, the nation’s leading organization of food banks, expects 42 million Americans to experience food insecurity in 2021—that’s a lack of access to sufficient, nutritious food. And when the cupboards run dry it can become a big challenge for college students to thrive. It gives a whole new meaning to being hungry for knowledge.

A team of researchers from Johns Hopkins University, University of Michigan and Brown University reviewed data from more than1,500 college students over two decades. They found that those who lacked consistent access to enough food were 43% less likely to graduate than their food-secure peers and 61% less likely to obtain an advanced degree, like a master’s or doctorate, in the years that followed. That’s very worrisome, as higher education is a primary pathway toward improving one’s economic situation long-term.

This apparent impact of food insecurity on student’s educational trajectory was published in Public Health Nutrition.

See also: Food Insecurity Is Growing Globally


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Matthew Kadey, MS, RD

Matthew Kadey, MS, RD, is a James Beard Award–winning food journalist, dietitian and author of the cookbook Rocket Fuel: Power-Packed Food for Sport + Adventure (VeloPress 2016). He has written for dozens of magazines, including Runner’s World, Men’s Health, Shape, Men’s Fitness and Muscle and Fitness.

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