Food insecurity intervention and barriers to using on-campus food pantries among TWU Denton students
Purpose: The primary purpose of this dissertation was to develop and implement an intervention to alleviate food insecurity (FI) among first-year students by targeting food literacy (FL) and food assistance (FA). A secondary purpose was to assess students’ awareness, utilization, and barriers to using on-campus food pantries (OCFP) at TWU and assess availability of food items. Methods: For study 1, students were randomized to intervention (n= 7) or control groups (n= 6). The intervention group participated in a 6-week FL online course and received FA every 2 weeks during 11 weeks of the fall semester. Both groups answered pre-, mid-point, and post-intervention surveys assessing food security (FS) and FL. Seven intervention, and six control participants completed the study. FL over time was compared using Friedman and FL between groups using Mann-Whitney U tests. FS over time was compared using Observed Marginal Homogeneity and FS between groups using crosstabulations. For study 2, a cross-sectional, online survey evaluated TWU students’ use of OCFP and barriers to utilization, including qualitative questions during Fall 2021. In addition, an inventory of the school-sponsored food pantry was completed. Results: In study 1, intervention group improved FL at mid-point but did not change FS although some participants improved from FI to high FS. Study 2 showed that although there was a high prevalence of FI (49.2%), most of the students had never used the OCFP (89.8%), and almost half of students were unaware of the pantries’ existence (47.8%). Students reported believing there are barriers to access the pantries (26.9%), including difficulties with time, transportation, food pantries’ hours of operation, and social stigma. Conclusions and Recommendations: At TWU although FI is related to low FL, improving FL in the short-term did not improve FS status. Thus, we recommend that an adequately powered study, testing the FL and FA separately, and improving students’ engagement in the intervention is warranted to test the efficacy of the intervention. Finally, TWU OCFP can use this study results to expand their outreach and reduce utilization barriers. This approach would also help students with FI to improve their FS status.