Exploring the Intersection of Post-Secondary Student Food Insecurity and Mental Health

Implications for Current and Future Post-Secondary Student Programming and Services

This report, prepared for Meal Exchange through the Social Connectedness Fellowship Program, explores the intersection of post-secondary student food insecurity and mental health and how its findings can be used to support post-secondary student food security programming and services. Interviews were conducted with post-secondary students, student leaders, campus staff, and research experts who work in, are involved in, or have lived experiences with food insecurity, mental health, and student wellness. A thematic analysis of these interviews was conducted to determine the most prevalent and dominant themes shared by interviewees. The findings from this analysis demonstrated that food insecurity among students could affect their mental health by impacting their sense of agency, and personal identity, creating social isolation and community exclusion, and seriously affecting academic performance.

Three recommendations have emerged from this study to better support the post-secondary student and campus community in taking action on the intersection between food insecurity and mental health. The first recommendation is to increase awareness and exposure to food supports and programs among post-secondary students, particularly during critical transitionary periods (i.e., moving onto the campus, moving into student housing, etc.), as these are highly stressful periods for students. The second is to promote a human dignity-based approach to food security programming and support so that students can access resources without fear of alienation and isolation from their community. The third is to encourage cross-sectoral collaboration so that campuses can employ holistic measures to take action on food insecurity and mental health.

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