Food Insecurity

Food insecurity refers to limited or uncertain access to sufficient food due to lack of economic resources it is an underlying cause that leads to poor diets and has been associated with acute and chronic health conditions like obesity, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes as well as weakened physical health and compromised mental health status (Gundersen &Ziliak 2018)

In the recent past, there has been perpetual economic growth and development in many regions around the world; however, another proportion of populations worldwide continue to suffer food insecurity. According to the United Nations universal call, the world targets zero hunger by 2030 as per SDG 2, but the recent report by FAO shows a grim picture. According to FAO figures, Close to 12 percent of the global population was severely food insecure in 2020, representing 928 million people – 148 million more than in 2019. which puts to question efforts being made towards the attainment of SDG 2. Furthermore, Globally, malnutrition in all its forms also remains a challenge. In 2020 it was estimated that 22.0 percent (149.2 million) of children under five years of age were affected by stunting, 6.7 percent (45.4 million) were suffering from wasting, and 5.7 percent (38.9 million) were overweight (FAO 2021).Food insecurity is known to cause household poverty, vulnerability, and livelihood insecurity. In their report, they state that eradicating extreme hunger among families can enable them to participate in other economic development activities that can improve their lives. Food insecurity and malnutrition are known to affect poor households to the extent they can’t contribute to overall economic development besides having higher reported cases of child mortality and registering poor educational standards.

In the US, a combination of both artificial and natural factors has contributed to food insecurity. According to a report by the USDA, more than 38 million people, including 12 million children, are food insecure. In addition, the recent COVID 19 pandemic has led to an increase in the level of food insecurity among families, more so families of color who have been similarly facing the same challenges over the past years. The report further notes that hunger within African American, Latino, and Native American communities continues to rise due to racial injustice. Unfortunately, many of these families only visit their local food banks for support as they don’t qualify for the federal nutrition program. In Kentucky state, it’s further reported that 644,540 out of a population of 4,505,836 are facing hunger, with children comprising 28 %.(  In Kentucky, 644,540 people are facing hunger – and of them, 179,030 are children out of a population of 4,505,836 as of April 2020. This research article will demonstrate a correlation between food insecurity and academic performance. Students who are food insecure are likely to suffer from emotional instability, compromised health well-being, absenteeism, and lack of academic resources, which negatively impact academic achievement.


This study examines how food insecurity affects students’ performance at Berea University.

Food & Emotional Instability

Food is one of the most basic human rights required for survival, health, and productivity. It remains the foundation for both human and economic development. While it’s a known fact that all countries worldwide continue doing their best to ensure food security, it remains a daunting task for others that calls for concerted efforts to have a full focus on ways to provide food for millions of people around the globe. Many families continue to face inadequate food supply due to lack of resources, i.e., financial resources and transport; lack of access to nutritious food at affordable prices; lack of access to food due to geographical isolation; and lack of motivation or knowledge about a nutritious diet. In Berea University, due to poor infrastructure, students cannot access food stores, and some have limited financial capacity to get enough portions that could last them for a while. However, the few locations within the university neighborhood that have food offer it expensively, disadvantaging most students. Those who manage to get the food can only manage the same food type all the time, which compromises nutrition standards for them. To a large extent, this has a negative impact on the emotional capacity as the students are not in a position to prioritize what they are to do while in college; competing factors of looking for food while at college with limited finance and concentrating on their academic studies. It further affects their cognitive development and physiological well-being, given that every person requires access to food in adequate quantity and quality at every stage of their lives (

Food & Absenteeism


A recent report in the US shows that more than half of students among college/university students have a higher prevalence of food insecurity. (El Zein et al.,2019)A number of peer-reviewed articles and journals have similarly highlighted the matter with a call to address food insecurity among college and university students with policies such as establishing food campus pantries or financial aid provided to the students (Fernandez et al., 2019). As more US colleges and universities, Berea college being among them, continue enrolling students of diverse backgrounds with varying levels of social-cultural backgrounds, it’s high time the admitted students are supported to access food and be in a position to continue with their educational programs. This is to ensure that students are fully concentrated in college to avoid being absent in attending their education programs. Colleges students who don’t attend lectures cannot be in a position to develop their academic knowledge and skills. At Berea College, students from poor backgrounds are known to stay off-campus and can only attend college if they have access to food. When Berea University students are supported and can access food at the Campus pantry, they will be at all times be in a position to attend their lectures as required. However, with the Empty Bowl project, which is an event sponsored by “the Ceramics Pottery Apprenticeship Program and CELTS” (“Empty bowls project,” 2021), Berea College students from poor backgrounds can be assisted to access food by contributions from people who attend the event.

Food Security & Lack of Academic resources

A report published in Current developments in nutrition, authored by researchers at the University of Tennesse, Knoxville ,states that College students in Southern Appalachia continue being food insecure at a rate that is higher than the national average of 12 %, which has translated to most of them performing poor in academics and developing unhealthy spending habits and coping mechanisms. The report further stated that 30.5% of 13,000 college students who participated in an online survey at four universities in the Southern Appalachia region comprising of Mississippi, Tennessee, North Carolina, and West Virginia were food insecure. The report summarized that most food insecure students were performing poorly in their academics and were using any financial resources they had on purchasing food instead of spending the money on transport and college utilities that can assist them in improving their academic performance.



Food Security and Health

People who are known to eat breakfast, lunch, and dinner are known to have a critical impact on how human beings function physically and intellectually. Previous research did show that students who are food insecure are almost twice likely to be in fair or poor health when compared with food-secure students as they are more likely to be hospitalized than their counterparts who are food secure. In addition, poor college students are more likely to go for unhealthy meals since that is what they can afford to purchase.

Similarly, it has been known that food insecurity among communities leads them into developing stress and depression ( Given that food insecurity among students is as a result of financial difficulties, most students within the university experience Stress, anxiety, and depression, and other types of mental health that include emotional and social well-being. Furthermore, access to food is known to improve the nutrition standards of people, and without balanced nutrition, it can easily be leased to students being anemic; hence for a healthy Berea college populace, they need good access to food all the time. Students with poor health cannot attend lectures and would most likely perform poorly in their academics.

Countering Food Insecurity at Berea College

As highlighted above, it has been noted that food insecurity is a significant problem that has only been worsened by the Covid 19 pandemic. So many people lost their employment as several firms downsized to remain in business. This had a great effect on them as they had reduced ability to purchase food. A number of students who were similarly working were seriously affected after losing their source of income .To address this; the college has a Food Bank that is maintained through a project referred to as the Empty Bowl project that organizes various events where participants contribute money to support needy students to access food. The project is sponsored by “the Ceramics Pottery Apprenticeship Program and CELTS” (“Empty bowls project,” 2021),

Another way to counter food insecurity is through establishment of campus pantries that can help students who go without meals while at college. This ensures that at all times they remain in college and are able to attend college as required which can thereafter lead to them performing well in academics

In conclusion, this research has shown that prevalence of food insecurity among Berea College students in Appalachia. Further, the essay demonstrates the effects of food insecurity on students’ behaviors as emotionally withdrawn students who don’t attend lectures are likely to perform poor in their academics. They further have different spending habits with their money as they are likely to forfeit spending money on their academics while looking for food. How students are retained in college all the time has a higher chance of them completing their college program as many students are likely to drop out when they can’t have access to food. This causes a financial burden to both parents of students and universities.

University administrators and public health experts can benefit from this information through targeted

Interventions for promoting academic success at Berea College.



National Research Council. Food insecurity and hunger in the United States: an assessment of the measure. National Academies Press, 2006.


Ziliak, James P., and Craig Gundersen. “Hunger among adults age 50-59 in 2018.” Age 50


Empty Bowls Project

Food Insecurity: Is It a Threat to University Students’ Well-Being and Success?

Fernandez C, Webster J, Cornett A. Studying on empty: a qualitative study of low food security among college students. 2019. Available at: Accessed June 19, 2020.

Study: High Rates of Food Insecurity Found at Southern Appalachia Colleges

Facts about hunger in America

El Zein, Aseel, et al. “Prevalence and correlates of food insecurity among US college students: a multi-institutional study.” BMC public health 19.1 (2019): 1-12.






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