The Impact of Covid-19 on education and Children's Services: Food Insecurity and Lived Experience of Students (FILES)

Margaret Defeyter, Paul Stretesky, Christian Reynolds, Sinéad Furey, Michael Long, Debbie Porteous, Alyson Dodd, Christine Stretesky, Emily Mann

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his paper provides evidence of the impact of Covid-19 on higher education students’ levels of food security and lived experiences. We surveyed higher education students, attending three universities in the UK and one in the USA, from 1st April to 30th April 2020, during the Covid-19 pandemic and after universities closed the majority of their buildings and ceased campus-based teaching. A total of 1,234 surveys were returned. The preliminary findings show that nearly 35% of students surveyed reported low or very low levels of food security and 41% of students were worried that their food would run out. We also found high levels of poor mental health and well-being; and mental health was associated with level of food security. The best predictor of the level of food security was students’ living arrangements during the Covid-19 pandemic. Students who were living on their own or with other students were more likely to experience low or very low levels of food insecurity compared to those students living with family members. The financial data collected show that many students relied on employment as their main source of income, and students are very worried about their current financial security. Furthermore, we found a relatively high reliance on ultra-processed foods as the main food type in students’ diets. The data from open-ended questions lend further support to the quantitative findings reported and provide further insight into students’ lived experiences. Finally, this paper concludes with key recommendations for policy makers, universities and student unions.
Original languageEnglish
TypeCommittee Call for Evidence
Media of outputOnline submission
Number of pages23
Publication statusPublished (in print/issue) - 24 Jun 2020


  • food insecurity
  • university students


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