Year

2014

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Department

School of Health and Society

Abstract

Background: Food insecurity occurs whenever the availability of nutritionally adequate and safe foods or the ability to acquire acceptable foods in socially acceptable ways is limited or uncertain. There has been limited research into food security among university students, although one previous study in Queensland reported the prevalence of food insecurity with hunger up to 25% and 46.5% food insecure without hunger using a multi item question, and 12.7% using a single item question to assess food insecurity.

This study aimed to investigate the level of food security among university students attending the University of Wollongong (UOW). It investigated the extent of food insecurity among domestic and international students and the factors influencing access to and preparation of foods suitable to meet cultural and religious needs of university students.

Design: An online questionnaire was distributed to all the university’s students via UOW student clubs and associations. Food security was measured using both a single item question taken from the Australian National Nutrition Survey (NNS) and multi item questions, based on the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Community Food Security Assessment Toolkit. Students were also asked about purchasing behaviours and cultural requirements of food. The data were assessed using descriptive data analysis, and multiple logistic regression assessed a range of factors associated with reported food insecurity.

Conclusion and Recommendations: This study confirms previous studies which show university students are at significant risk of food insecurity, indicating a need to provide better support services to university students. The study provided a comparison of the single item and multi item instruments used, and included recommendations to include questions about special food needs. Information from across the sector should be obtained to determine the extent of food insecurity amongst university students throughout Australia.

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