Date of Defense


Date of Graduation



Family and Consumer Sciences

First Advisor

Susan Caulfield

Second Advisor

Shari Glaser


Previous research suggests that food insecurity is higher among college students and individuals from minority populations than the general population. Many college campuses have recognized this issue and developed on-campus food pantries to mitigate food insecurity among students. Nevertheless, barriers exist that prevent students from utilizing on-campus pantries. The purpose of this study was to investigate college students’ relationship to food and food access at Western Michigan University (WMU). Student satisfaction of WMU’s on-campus food pantry, The Invisible Need Project, was also explored. Data were gathered through a 28-question online survey and one in-person focus group. Participants were undergraduate and graduate students at WMU. Prior utilization of the food pantry was not required for participation in this study. Results indicate that barriers to food access present a prominent issue at WMU with 51.1% of respondents reporting worrying about running out food before having enough money to buy more since attending college. A significant relationship was found between incidence of worrying about food access and first-generation college students (p<0.05). Ethnicity was also significantly related to worrying about running out of food (p<0.05). 57.3% of respondents reported awareness of WMU’s food pantry, but just 14.8% of those who were aware of the food pantry reported utilizing it. Prevalent reasons for not using the food pantry included: having adequate access to food, being unsure how to utilize the food pantry, and believing that others have a greater need for its resources.

Access Setting

Honors Thesis-Open Access