Too hungry to study : a phenomenological study examining college students experiencing food insecurity.


Food insecurity occurs when individuals do not have access to nutritional food on a routine basis, and it is a growing trend among today’s college students. A 2018 survey conducted by HOPE Research Center provided an alarming statistic about this issue. The report indicated, “45% of student respondents from over 100 institutions said they had been food insecure in the past 30 days” (Hope Center, 2020, para 2). This phenomenological study highlighted the pervasiveness of the issue among the college student population. Many colleges and universities started campus food pantries on their campuses to assist students who are in need. However, this solution poses problems for students because campus food pantries are unavailable 24 hours, seven days a week. This Problem of Practice investigated food insecurity and its impact on college students by sharing students’ personal experiences regarding food insecurity. This study took a holistic approach because food scarcity impacts the whole student. The study considered factors such as health, well-being, academic performance, and food availability. To fully describe the students’ personal experiences, the researcher utilized primary and secondary data to highlight this phenomenon. The researcher collected information from interviews with the students and insights from their journal entries. This study relied on Maslow’s hierarchy of needs and Bronfenbrenner’s Social-Ecological Model theoretical frameworks to bridge gaps noted in the literature regarding the topic. The study’s findings indicated how students felt about food insecurity. Students expressed shame, loneliness and they were reluctant to seek campus resources for assistance. Food insecurity impacted their academics and their social interactions. They would skip class or, when they attended class, they had difficulty concentrating because they were hungry. The students would like to feel supported by the campus community, and they wanted more academic and financial planning guidance. Food insecure students need the campus community to understand their challenges, and participants seek better coordination among campus and community resources to meet their basic needs. The researcher recommended that more awareness and outreach efforts are necessary, and the researcher suggested that campus staff provide holistic services to mitigate the participants’ reported challenges within this study.



Food insecurity. Food pantry. Phenomenology. Maslow. Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. Postsecondary education.