Underestimating College Student Food Insecurity: Marginally Food Secure Students May Not Be Food Secure

Stephanie A. Brescia, Cara L. Cuite

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


The purpose of this study was to understand the demographic, student, financial, and academic differences between marginally food secure college students and students with high, low, or very low food security (FS). Unlike highly food secure students, marginally food secure students worry about the quantity and quality of their food, yet they are classified in the same category as highly food secure individuals as per the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) reporting standards. To investigate marginal FS among college students, a cross-sectional online survey was administered at a large, public, research university in the Northeastern United States. A largely representative sample of 6823 undergraduate students completed the survey with a 19.7% response rate. Self-reported level of FS was measured using the validated USDA 10-item FS survey module. Independent variables, such as demographic and student characteristics and cumulative grade point average (GPA), were gathered from institutional databases, and self-reported mechanisms of financing education were measured using a novel scale. Results from the multinomial logistic regression revealed statistically significant differences in GPA between students with marginal and high FS (p < 0.001), but not between students with marginal and low FS (p = 0.31). This work has implications beyond college students and suggests that marginally food secure populations should not be labeled as food secure.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number3142
Issue number15
StatePublished - Aug 2022

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Food Science
  • Nutrition and Dietetics


  • college student food insecurity
  • marginal food security


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