OPINION: USF should provide nutritional education for food insecure students

By providing nutritional education to food-insecure students, the overall health and wellness of these students can be improved.

Two out of five USF students are experiencing food insecurity, according to the USF website.

Students that experience food insecurity have a higher chance of becoming overweight or obese, according to a 2021 study by Current Developments in Nutrition. USF should provide nutritional education programs to aid these students in overcoming food insecurity and avoiding obesity.

An individual that is food insecure has consistent, limited access to food, according to Feeding America’s website. One major cause of food insecurity in cities such as Tampa is the prevalence of food deserts. 

Food deserts are areas where residents lack access to affordable healthy food options, according to an article by the Food Empowerment Project. More than ten of these food desert areas are found surrounding the USF campus, according to the Food Access Research Atlas interactive guide.

By providing this type of education to food-insecure homes, there was a 22% decrease in food insecurity, according to a 2021 study done by Iran J Public Health journal. To combat this issue at USF, it is crucial that a nutrition education program is put in place. This program should include free, accessible nutrition classes where USF students or faculty members can inform food insecure students of healthy food and budgeting habits. 

UNF’s Center for Food Nutrition and Security strives to provide nutritional literacy to their students and community in order to decrease food insecurity, according to the center’s website. Since this is a relatively new program, its effects may take more time to show in their community, but it is proven that nutritional education has a significant impact on food insecurity. 

Since obesity is a common result of food insecurity among college students, nutritional education programs have been tested and proved to reduce this issue as 11 out of 12 studies showed improvement in dietary habits, according to a 2021 literature review done by the University of San Diego.

Not only is this type of program important for the health and wellbeing of students, it is also essential for their education. Students experiencing food insecurity are more likely to have a lower GPA or drop out of their university, according to a 2022 article by the Health Affairs website.

Although USF provides the food pantry and resources for accessing food stamps through the government’s SNAP program, according to its website, they fail to provide nutritional education for food insecure students. Providing such a program will likely reduce the percentage of students experiencing this issue.

USF can combat the prevalence of food insecurity and obesity by providing an accessible nutritional education program for food insecure students that includes lessons on healthy, balanced meals and other nutrition topics.

Almost half of USF’s student population is experiencing food insecurity. It is crucial that nutritional programs are implemented to not only reduce food insecurity, but to improve the health and education of the student population.