The "starving student's" pathway to food security at the University of Lethbridge

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Wandler, Bryanne
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University of Lethbridge, Dept. of Geography and Environment
Food banks have existed since the 1980s, yet their demand has increased exponentially; in March 2023, there were nearly 2 million visits to food banks across Canada (Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, 1998; Food Banks Canada, 2023). Food insecurity has often been studied through one field, but I have found that a multidisciplinary approach may broaden our understanding of how interconnected food insecurity is. This thesis will look at food insecurity amongst undergraduate students at the University of Lethbridge through three key lenses: access, affordability, and stigma. Data was collected qualitatively through six semi-structured interviews with second-year domestic undergraduate students to hear firsthand about their experiences as students navigating a geographically constrained campus amidst an affordability crisis. In order to visually capture the food desertification in the city of Lethbridge, a service area map between the street network and grocery store locations with a 1–3-kilometer walking distance was created using ArcGIS software. A few recurring themes from the interviews included that students may not perceive themselves as food insecure since they find their financial status stable despite frequently skipping meals. In addition, food secure and insecure students were very likely to push off eating while on campus if they did not pack anything despite their hunger due to the cost of food from on-campus vendors. Thus, the perception of food insecurity may appear distorted based on the normality of the increased cost of living. My research aims to add to the growing conversation surrounding student food insecurity and support institutions looking to create food secure campuses.
63 pages : illustrated
Food insecurity , Stigma , Food deserts , Affordability , Food banks , University of Lethbridge , Undergraduate students