International students in Australia: Are they food insecure?

Wasima Islam, Maggie JAMIESON, Tanya LAWLIS

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Abstract

Background/Aims: International students are vulnerable to food insecurity, thus impacting upon their ability to study and their international experience. This study investigates the food security levels of international students enrolled at an Australian university and the factors which influence the students' food security status.
Methods: A convenience sample of 85 international students were invited to complete a questionnaire and participate in a one-on-one interview. The questionnaire contained pre-validated measures of food security status and hunger (Household Food Security Module), a demographic variable component and the single item instrument from the National Nutrition Survey. Basic statistical and chi-squared analysis was conducted on the survey data and the in-depth interviews thematically analysed.
Results: Seventy-five surveys and 11 interviews were completed. Thirty percent of the cohort had experienced food insecurity with half of students who had experienced food insecurity experiencing hunger. Four themes emerged from the interviews: Adaptation and resilience; Quality and availability of traditional food; Student hardship and overcoming obstacles; and Food, health and wellbeing. Cooking and grocery shopping was a new skill for some. Although traditional foods were available, they were found to be expensive resulting in a change of diet.
Conclusions: This study highlights the challenges for international students to be food secure. Food insecurity impedes wellbeing and as a result impacts academic success. Further research to understand the impact of food security on the international student experience is recommended, coupled with educational interventions and reinforcing university support services to redress food insecurity amongst international students.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)72-73
Number of pages2
JournalJournal of Nutrition and Intermediary Metabolism
Volume8
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2017

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