"Is It Worth It”: The Lived Experience of Food Insecurity among College Students at a Midwestern University System

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Food Studies: An Interdisciplinary Journal


Food insecurity exists on college campuses among college students. The purpose of this study is to gain a better understanding of how college students experience food insecurity. A phenomenology-based study was conducted to explore the lived experiences of food insecurity among students at the University of Nebraska (NU) system campuses, namely, the University of Nebraska—Lincoln (UNL), the University of Nebraska at Omaha (UNO), and the University of Nebraska at Kearney (UNK). In-depth interviews with twenty-one students, ranging from undergraduate to doctoral-level students, were conducted. This study also aims to build knowledge around students’ experiences with food insecurity. The essential research question guiding this inquiry is, how do college students experience food insecurity, and what challenges do they face, if any, when it comes to being food insecure, if at all? Based on the analysis of the students’ experiences, two overarching and eight subthemes were developed. The results from this study can provide insights into the impacts food insecurity has on students. Each of these areas has important implications for improving students’ situations related to food insecurity and the potential to improve student outcomes and help address gaps in the current literature.