Feeding success : a mixed methods study on the impact of food insecurity on college students’ educational goals and the effectiveness of institutional interventions.
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Guerra, Jennifer J., 1970-
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Food insecurity among students is a problem on college campuses. The most comprehensive study to date, conducted by the HOPE Foundation, found that 42% of community college students experience food insecurity (Goldrick-Rab et al., 2018). Despite the awareness that food insecurity exists and awareness that food insecurity can cause physical, mental, and sociological problems, there is little research that demonstrates and explains the connection to educational impact. Additionally, although schools have put interventions into place, research does not show the effectiveness of such programs or policies. The significant number of students who experience food insecurity in combination with the barriers food-insecure students face makes the problem not only one of student success but also institutional success. This mixed-methods study used a theoretical framework based on the constructionist theory of social work by Loseke (1999) and the diagnostic framing of Benford and Snow (2000) to define the problem, identify the people involved, and devise measurable and viable solutions. This process informs the grounded theory approach where explanations of relationships are identified and participant experiences create new understanding throughout the data collection and analysis process (Lawrence & Tar, 2013). The study utilized a concurrent triangulation design to investigate the experiences and academic success outcomes of the students of South Texas College who utilize the student food pantry. Simultaneous qualitative data and quantitative data collection occurred through surveys, questionnaires, and interviews. This study provided a direct connection between student experience and student success metrics to provide the college with better information to meet the needs of the students. Additionally, other institutions will have a greater knowledge of the impact of food insecurity on students and the effectiveness of a student food pantry to mitigate the challenges food insecure students face. This study answered the following three research questions: What is the relationship between food insecurity and academic success? How does the student’s educational experience change after gaining acct the food pantry? How do the student experiences and the student outcomes explain both the impact of food insecurity and how the food pantry mitigates these challenges?