Abstract: Food Insecurity Among Black College Students: Prevalence & Consequences (Society for Social Work and Research 26th Annual Conference - Social Work Science for Racial, Social, and Political Justice)

531P Food Insecurity Among Black College Students: Prevalence & Consequences

Saturday, January 15, 2022
Marquis BR Salon 6, ML 2 (Marriott Marquis Washington, DC)
* noted as presenting author
Caroline Macke, PhD, Associate Professor, Northern Kentucky University, Highland Heights, KY
Kendra Massey, BS, Director of the Norse Violence Prevention Center, Northern Kentucky University, Highland Heights, KY
Reiko Ozaki, PhD, Assistant Professor, Northern Kentucky University, KY
Jessica Averitt Taylor, PhD, Associate Professor, Northern Kentucky University, Highland Heights, KY
Background & Purpose

Food insecurity among college students is a pervasive social issue with prevalence rates ranging from 12%-56%. Additionally, Black college students are at higher risk of experiencing food insecurity than their White peers. These prevalence rates are especially concerning given the negative impact of food insecurity on students’ academic, physical, mental, and psychosocial wellbeing. While the impact of food insecurity is fairly well-researched among the general college population, few studies have examined consequences of food insecurity specifically among Black students.

To fill this gap, this study explores the following questions: (1) To what extent is there a difference in the prevalence of food insecurity between Black and White students? (2) To what extent does food insecurity impact academic wellbeing and sense of belonging among Black versus White students? (3) What factors may help explain the differential impact of food insecurity among Black and White students?


This IRB approved, cross-sectional study included a sample of 858 students from a Midwestern university. A self-report survey was used to measure food insecurity, academic outcomes, sense of belonging, and service utilization/student engagement. Data were compiled and analyzed using SPSS Version 27 computer software. Independent samples t-tests and crosstabs with chi-square were used to answer the research questions. Findings significant at the 0.05 level are reported.


Consistent with existing research, Black students were significantly more likely to experience food insecurity than White students (37.8% vs. 21.1%). However, while White food insecure students experienced negative impacts to both their academic performance and sense of belonging, this was not the case for Black students. No statistically significant differences in academic performance or sense of belonging were found for Black food insecure students as compared to Black food secure students. Additionally, Black food insecure students fared slightly better than White food insecure students. In order to better understand these unexpected findings, resource utilization & student engagement on campus were explored. Findings revealed that Black food insecure students engaged in support services and student organizations at significantly higher rates than both Black food secure and White food insecure students.

Conclusions & Implications

This study highlights the potential protective capacity of campus support services and student organizations in reducing the negative impacts of food insecurity. These findings have important implications for student success strategies and efforts to reduce the achievement gap between Black and White students. Based on these findings, university administrators and social work educators are encouraged to broaden their approach to addressing food insecurity. Universities should focus not only on directly addressing food insecurity (e.g. through on-campus food pantries), but also indirectly addressing food insecurity by connecting students to other support services and student organizations. These types of wrap-around services have the potential to promote the academic well-being of Black food insecure students, and food insecure students in general.