Influence of Covid-19 pandemic restrictions on college students’ dietary quality and experience of the food environment

Brito-Silva, Francilia
Osborn, Dawn E.
Owens, Meghan R.
Kirkland, Tracie
Moore, Carolyn E.
Patterson, Mindy A.
Tucker, Wesley J.
Miketinas, Derek C.
Davis, Kathleen E.
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The COVID-19 pandemic restrictions sent college students online and off campus, potentially reducing access to healthy food. The objective of this cross-sectional, internet-based study was to use qualitative and quantitative survey methods to evaluate whether COVID-19 pandemic restrictions in Texas, USA affected college students’ ability to buy food, how/what they shopped for, how they prepared food, what they ate, how they felt about eating, and overall dietary quality (assessed using Healthy Eating Index [HEI] scores). Survey responses from 502 students (87.5% female; 59.6% nonwhite, mean age 27.5 0.4 years, >50% graduate students) were analyzed. The qualitative analysis of open-ended questions revealed 110 codes, 17 subthemes, and six themes. Almost all students experienced changes in at least one area, the most common being changes in shopping habits. Participants with low or very low food security had lower HEI scores compared to food secure students (p = 0.047). Black students were more likely to report changes in their ability to buy food (p = 0.035). The COVID-19 restrictions varied in their impact on students’ ability to access sufficient healthy food, with some students severely affected. Thus, universities should establish procedures for responding to emergencies, including identifying at-risk students and mobilizing emergency funds and/or food assistance.

Article originally published in Nutrients, 13(8), 2790 English. Published online 2021.
Food security, Healthy eating index, Dietary quality, Coronavirus, Qualitative assessment, Shopping habits, Food preparation
This is the published version of an article that is available at Recommended citation: Silva, F. B., Osborn, D. E., Owens, M. R., Kirkland, T., Moore, C. E., Patterson, M. A., Tucker, W. J., Miketinas, D. C., & Davis, K. E. (2021). Influence of Covid-19 pandemic restrictions on college students’ dietary quality and experience of the food environment. Nutrients, 13(8), 2790. This item has been deposited in accordance with publisher copyright and licensing terms and with the author’s permission.