Food insecurity — or lack of consistent access to adequate foods — is a persistent public health concern across the nation, especially for college students? According to new research released today at the American Public Health Association’s 143rd Annual Meeting in Chicago, one in three college freshmen experiences food insecurity.

Researchers from Arizona State University and the University of Minnesota studied college freshmen living in dormitories at a large, diverse public university in the southwest United States and examined the link between food insecurity, mental health, personal eating behaviors and perceptions of the campus eating environment.

Their study found that 34 percent of the students reported food insecurity over a 30-day period, and 35 percent reported food insecurity over a 90-day period.

“This number is over two times the national rate of food insecurity among adults, and over 10 percent higher among households with children,” said study author Meg Bruening, PhD, MPH, RD, of Arizona State University’s School of Nutrition and Health Promotion.

The study also showed that food insecure students were less likely to eat breakfast and home-cooked meals, and more likely to eat fast food and experience anxiety and depression.

“Interventions are needed to support these youth as they transition into college, so that they can maintain healthy eating patterns to support their learning and success in college,” Bruening said.