Critical Intersection: Disability and Food Insecurity in Institutions of Higher Education (Session 7A)
Main Topic: Transition, Inclusive Postsecondary Education, and Self Determination
Session Type: Paper
As higher education has become more accessible to diverse groups of students, the number of postsecondary students with disabilities has increased. These students face various challenges during their college life. Their experiences can even be more complex in conjunction with food insecurity. Research suggests that food insecurity is particularly prevalent among individuals with disabilities. There are various ways to address students’ basic needs insecurity, and campus food pantries are one of the short-term solutions. The current study illustrates the experiences of students with disabilities using an on-campus food pantry and aims to shed light on the importance of this resource in the lives of these students. I conducted a qualitative study to better understand the experiences of postsecondary students with a campus food pantry. According to the U.S. Department of Justice’s definition of disability, of the fifteen students interviewed, four individuals were students with disabilities. One of the participants was visually impaired. Another student faced mental health issues, which resulted in receiving treatment at a psychiatric hospital. The other two students had chronic illnesses that required special treatments and nourishment. The initial thematic analysis of the interview data for these four students reveals four major themes related to food access: financial, social, environmental, and dietary factors. Since this research is conducted in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, some specific immediate impacts of the pandemic on the students will also be discussed. This study can provide valuable information on the ways students with disabilities can benefit from an on-campus food pantry. The findings can also raise awareness about the special needs of these students and compel higher education institutions to address the issue of food insecurity among this vulnerable population and provide inclusive postsecondary education.
- Learn about the importance of on-campus food pantries in the lives of students with disabilities.
- Learn about the special needs of food-insecure students with disabilities that higher education institutions should consider.
- Learn about some specific immediate impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on students with disabilities who are university food pantry clients.
Keywords: higher education, food insecurity, disability, on-campus food pantries
Mrs. Elmira JangjouUniversity of Iowa - Graduate Research Assistant
University of Iowa
Elmira Jangjou is a third-year Ph.D. student at the Educational Policy and Leadership Studies Department. She received her B.Sc. and M.Sc. in Agricultural Economics Engineering from the University of Tabriz, Iran. Her experience in teaching in various private institutions inspired Elmira to pursue a graduate degree in the field of education abroad. Despite the challenges of integrating her degrees to her new field of study, she was driven by a lifelong belief that access to equitable education could be integral to help communities and individuals break the cycle of poverty. After meeting Dr. Broton and becoming inspired by her research on basic needs insecurity, Elmira became interested in learning more about food insecurity in higher education. She conducted a qualitative study to better understand the experience of students utilizing an on-campus food pantry. By adding students’ voices and shedding light on their experiences, she hopes to increase awareness on the issue of food insecurity among postsecondary students, as well as contribute to the overall accessibility of on-campus food pantries.