Abstract: Intelligent and Hungry: Assessing the State of Food Insecurity at UA-Little Rock (Society for Social Work and Research 23rd Annual Conference - Ending Gender Based, Family and Community Violence)

344P Intelligent and Hungry: Assessing the State of Food Insecurity at UA-Little Rock

Friday, January 18, 2019
Continental Parlors 1-3, Ballroom Level (Hilton San Francisco)
* noted as presenting author
Tracey Barnett, PhD, Assistant Professor, University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, Fayetteville, AR
Cynthia Wyman, BSW, MSW Student, University of Arkansas at Little Rock, AR

When one has not had enough food, it can often lead to feelings of being hangry (hungry + angry). Food insecurity is defined as “the limited or uncertain availability of nutritionally adequate and safe foods or limited or uncertain ability to acquire acceptable foods in socially acceptable ways” (Anderson, 1990). In 2014, 567,250 (19.1%) Arkansans were classified as food insecure (Feeding America, 2016). According to Dubick, Mathews, and Cady (2016), in the largest study to date, 48% of students at community colleges and four-year colleges/universities qualified as food insecure. If food insecurity and hunger begins in childhood, this may cause a developmental delay in impulse control, which could lead to violent episodes. The purpose of this study was to assess on-campus food insecurity at UA-Little Rock.


We utilized an explanatory sequential design. The purpose of this design is to use a qualitative approach to explain quantitative results by integrating both sets of data at a particular stage in the research process (Creswell, 2005). The USDA’s Adult Food Insecurity survey was adapted and administered to UA-Little Rock students. Based on the survey findings, open-ended survey questions were asked in an anonymous survey. Rather than focus groups or one-on-one interviews, open-ended questions are preferred due to the sensitivity of this topic.


Of the students who completed the survey (n=510); 54% identified as White; 37% Black or African American; 6% Hispanic or Latino; 3.5% Asian; 1% Native American and 62% were 19-24 years old. In terms of food security, 22.4% had enough to eat, but not always the kinds of food they wanted, 4.5% sometimes did not have enough to eat, 20.4% had to cut the size of their meals or skip meals because there was not enough money for food in the past three months, 22.5% couldn’t afford to eat balanced meals in the past three months, 26% worried whether the food would run out before they got money to buy more, and 19.8% cut the size of their meals because there was not enough money for food. To date, (N= 38) students have responded to the opened ended survey questions. The following themes emerged from the opened ended questions: a more in-tune university administration, current on campus meal plans are not sufficient, campus and community food pantries, and budgeting money for food.


When one is always in search of their next meal, improper impulse controls can develop. Those who are food insecure or hungry, treat every meal as if it were their last. An adult who lacks impulse control skills may have trouble controlling their anger, which could lead to interpersonal violence. The link between food accessibility and academic performance can illustrate ways that policymakers can address the issue to help alleviate poverty and increase the chances that children can go to college and stay in college. By collaborating with students, faculty, and staff, UA-Little Rock can increase its methods to address food insecurity among its college students.