Campus food pantries may reduce students’ food insecurity, depression

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New research has examined how students’ use of a campus food pantry can positively affect their physical health, mental health, and improve their sleep.  

The study, published in the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior, was led by Suzanna Martinez, MS, PhD, department of epidemiology and biostatistics, at the University of California, San Francisco. Her team explored the impact of the availability of campus food pantries on students across 10 university of California campuses.

According to Martinez, they found that in 2015, 40 percent of University of California students were experiencing food insecurity, which is four times that of the general population. This prompted the state of California to allocate funding so that all UC campuses would have a food pantry by 2018.

Researchers conducted an online survey of 1,855 students from UC Basic Needs Center listservs at each campus from June 2019 to August 2019. Participants were asked questions about their general health before and after visits to the food pantry. They found that having access to a food pantry directly improved students’ perceived health, reduced the number of depressive symptoms they experienced, increased their sleep, and boosted food security.

The investigators said these findings could be used to advocate for state or federal funding to support the establishing of food pantries nationwide.