Hunger for knowledge: food insecurity among students at the University of KwaZulu-Natal
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The experience of food insecurity in the South African university student population is not well documented or researched. Data to assess vulnerability to food insecurity in a sample of 1.083 students from the University of KwaZulu-Natal (Pietermaritzburg Campus) was collected between 2007 and 2010 via a questionnaire developed specifically for this purpose. The results indicate that 20.8% of the sample experienced some level of vulnerability to food insecurity, with 16.1% reporting serious levels of vulnerability, and 4.7% experiencing severe to critical levels of vulnerability to food insecurity. Students on financial aid were found to be significantly more vulnerable to food insecurity when compared to those who were not on financial aid. A similar relationship was found between students in a bridging programme when their level of vulnerability to food insecurity was compared to those in mainstream programmes. The potential impact on university students’ educational outcomes and social and psychological well-being are discussed. The results are also contextualised within the retention and throughput efforts of South African higher education institutions, and recommendations for institutional responses are made.