Honors Research Sheds Light on Student Nutrition

Posted on January 28, 2019
Marketing and Communications

Keeping up with coursework, exams, and jobs or internships can be difficult for college students to handle. But imagine how much harder it is for students who don’t have consistent access to healthy food, a problem known as food insecurity. College of Nursing student Jillian McCardle chose to devote her senior honors project to understanding how food insecurity affects students and to help link South students to available resources.

Nationally, 19 percent of students face food insecurity as the rising cost of education and difficulty of obtaining financial aid can leave them struggling to buy groceries at the end of the month, according to a review in the “Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics” Studies have linked food insecurity to poorer academic outcomes as well as poorer health outcomes.  In a survey of 100 College of Nursing undergraduates, McCardle found that over a quarter had eaten less at some point because of not having enough money for food, and 13 percent had lost weight because there wasn’t enough food.

Another problem McCardle identified was lack of awareness of local resources that can help students in need. As part of McCardle’s service learning project, she developed presentations and flyers to educate students about food pantries they can use, including one located at the Student Center. McCardle also organized a faculty and staff food drive within the college that resulted in 60 bags of food containing multiple meals that were distributed to students before the end of the semester.

Dr. Leigh Minchew, associate professor and chair of maternal child nursing and one of several faculty mentors on the project, says that McCardle was “instrumental in bringing awareness of food insecurity to the College of Nursing faculty who have a true heart for student health and academic success. She involved both faculty and students in her service project, which strengthened awareness of this issue among all.” Minchew, executive director of the college’s honors program, expects that future honors students will continue work on the project, and the college will incorporate educational materials into orientations and classes.

McCardle presented the project at the regional conference for Sigma Theta Tau, the international honor society for nursing. She says that doing the honors project helped her learn time management, was good preparation for graduate school and improved her relationships with faculty. The 2018 graduate will take her commitment to helping others to her new job at University Hospital’s emergency department.

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