Doctoral Dissertations

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



Major Professor

Lisa G. Driscoll, Pamela Angelle

Committee Members

Terry T. Ishitani, David F. Folz


The purpose of this research was to develop a reliable and valid survey instrument to measure the prevalence and degree of food insecurity among college students with respect to their demographic characteristics. This survey instrument was piloted to a sample of college students at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville.

The College Student Food Insecurity (CSFI) survey instrument was designed using a Likert format with 5 levels of agreement. Items for the CSFI were created through brainstorming, a review of the USDA Food Insecurity Modules, and a review of the literature with a focus on three concepts: access or awareness of food insecurity, behaviors of food insecurity, and support or resources for food insecurity. Content validation was assessed via a panel of experts.

An exploratory factor analysis was performed to identify factors that comprised the construct of food insecurity in college students. The construct of food insecurity loaded on four components: behaviors of food insecurity, access to food options, support and resources for food insecure students, and food purchasing behaviors. The internal consistency for each factor was acceptable ranging from 0.35 to 0.83. Test-retest reliability was also completed with 20 students (p = 0.043, r = 0.74). The survey was distilled into 18 items and was emailed to 1,414 students with a return of 14.7%.

A binary logistic regression was performed using the survey data to determine the food insecurity probability unique to the individual students and whether there existed significant differences between levels of demographic variables, chi-square tests were performed to assess the relationships among the categorical demographic variables with food insecurity status. Being a male student, working 1 or more part-time job(s), and receiving a Pell grant were positively associated with being food insecure (p < 0.05). These findings may be limited by an over-representation of females in the sample and a positive bias that food insecure students would be more likely to complete the survey than others.

From a higher education administrative view, both academic professionals can assist in accelerating a growing body of support resources and improved environment for food insecurity college students in the United States.

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