Poster Topical Area: Community and Public Health Nutrition

Location: Auditorium

Poster Board Number: 123

P06-102 - Comparative Accuracy of Food Security Assessments among Undergraduate Students

Monday, Jun 11
8:00 AM – 3:00 PM

Objectives: Food insecurity (FI), where individuals experience deficiencies related to availability, access, utilization, and/or stability of food, is estimated to impact one in eight U.S. households. Recent studies estimate that post-secondary (i.e. college) students are at an elevated risk of FI. Many studies use previously validated protocols for assessing FI, but little is known about how the questionnaires perform in this subpopulation. The objective of the current study is to quantitatively compare commonly used FI assessment protocols in a sample of undergraduate students.


Methods: A random sample of 4,000 undergraduate students (1,000 per college classification) at a land-grant university was invited to participate in an online survey. To be eligible, students needed to be 18 to 24-years old, fluent in English, and enrolled as an undergraduate student. The questionnaire included items related to academic status, sociodemographic characteristics, sources of financial support, and family history. FI was assessed with the 2-item food sufficiency screener and the 10-item USDA Adult Food Security Survey Module (AFSSM; containing the abbreviated 6-item module).


Results: Of 633 responses, n=462 eligible responses were included in the final analyses. Participants were 19.6 (±1.3) years old on average; 50.4% identified as White, 62.8% identified as female, and 50.9% lived off campus in apartments or houses. FI prevalence among students diverged based on module and use of screeners, with the greatest prevalence (34.9%) reported with the 6-item module and the lowest prevalence (6.5%) reported when the 2-item screener was used with the full 10-item module. Percent agreement for the 10-item and 6-item modules was 94.1%.


Conclusions: Though percent agreement for AFSSMs was high in this sample, differing FI classification methods demonstrated variability among undergraduate students. Results indicate that FI prevalence rates among college students may be dramatically different based on methods used. Therefore, researchers should consider the consequences of their FI methodological choices. In addition, future work on the performance of FI questionnaires among this subpopulation is warranted to ensure college students experiencing FI are correctly and efficiently identified.




Funding Source: This research was supported by US Department of Agriculture National Institute of Food and Agriculture grant no. ILLU-470-356.

CoAuthors: Brenna Ellison, PhD – University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign; Sharon Nickols-Richardson, PhD, RD – University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Cassandra J. Nikolaus

Doctoral Research Assistant
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Urbana, Illinois