A team from Abilene Christian University’s School of Social Work, in partnership with the Community Foundation of Abilene and other local organizations, is planning to address food insecurity among a population not often associated with food insecurity: college students.
The work is being conducted through ACU’s Institute for Social and Community Development and will address food insecurity among students at all of Abilene’s colleges and universities by offering a mobile food pantry.
“This is what the Institute for Social and Community Development is all about: bringing hidden issues to the forefront. Our goal is to face and address these issues head on and not shy away,” said Dr. Malcolm Scott, program director for ACU’s Master of Science in Social Work and assistant professor in the School of Social Work.
A national study conducted last year surveyed nearly 86,000 college students across the nation and found that approximately 48% of students at two-year postsecondary education institutions and 41% of students at four-year postsecondary education institutions experienced food insecurity during their undergraduate career (Goldrick-Rab, Baker-Smith, Coca, Looker, & Williams, 2019).
In Spring 2020, then-ACU-student Shannon Que explored food insecurity among ACU students as part of her master’s thesis and discovered 27.9% percent of undergraduates reported experiencing food insecurity. The most significant risk factor was being a first-generation college student, Que said.
“The biggest take away is that this issue is much more prevalent than we think it is,” Que said. “Especially in our community of Abilene where a lot of what we talk about is serving, it’s easy to forget the people in our own campus and community.”
The team, including Que, Scott and three other faculty members in the School of Social Work, is partnering with the Food Bank of West Central Texas, ACU’s Department of Kinesiology and Nutrition, Abilene Fresh, Abilene Hunger Coalition, and Abilene’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits coordinator. The group received a grant for its work through the Community Foundation of Abilene. With the $25,000 provided, the group plans to create a mobile food pantry that will be accessible on each of the six local college campuses.
“This project is unique because it addresses food insecurity for all local college students, not just those attending ACU. This widespread scope provides an opportunity for true impact. We are pleased to support Dr. Scott’s project and thankful for the opportunity to impact our entire community,” said Michelle Parrish, grant director for the Community Foundation of Abilene.
The project aims to provide fresh nutritious food, as well as enhanced nutrition education and access to existing resources, such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, Scott said.
“I think we will certainly see students experiencing food insecurity find a resource to alleviate food needs or at least provide some relief,” he said.
Que’s research defined food insecurity as “the inability to access healthy and nutritious food at all times for all members of your household due to insufficient socio-economic resources.” Respondents for her thesis research were 220 undergraduate students at ACU.