Service, Scholarship, and Sacrifice: A Qualitative Analysis of Food Security Barriers and Strategies among Military-Connected Students



      In the United States, 41% of 4-year university student veterans have reported food insecurity, but literature on food insecurity among military-connected students is limited.


      The objective of the study was to increase knowledge of military-connected student food insecurity experiences and potential strategies to address food access.


      The study is a cross-sectional survey and nonexperimental qualitative cohort analysis.

      Participants and setting

      Military-connected students (n = 127) responded to a survey sampling all enrolled students at a Mountain West land grant university during spring 2020. Military-connected student focus group participants (n = 8) were purposively sampled from the same university during fall 2020.

      Main outcome measures

      Main outcome measures were demographic data and food insecurity rates. Qualitative measures included responses to questions about food insecurity among military-connected students, actions for improving food insecurity, and insight into food access resources on campus.

      Statistical analysis

      Descriptive statistics were used to determine food insecurity rates. Qualitative analysis included audio recording and transcription, then a step-by-step process for coding and theme development.


      Food insecurity was reported by 42.5% of military-connected student survey respondents. Qualitative analysis revealed themes about current and planned food access resources, barriers to food security, and strategies to promote military-connected student food security. Main themes related to resources were access to resources and food offerings. Main barrier themes were pride and shame. Main strategy themes included military pride and military connections and culture.


      Military-connected students are at least as vulnerable to food insecurity as the student body at large. Qualitative analysis identified barriers and strategies for food security among military-connected students. Feelings of pride in identifying with the military seemed to amplify feelings of shame about food insecurity; however, this pride and sense of military community also suggest that food security efforts specifically tailored to military-connected students could be successful.


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      K. Schinkel is an administrative dietitian, VA Greater Los Angeles Healthcare System, Los Angeles, CA; at the time of the study he was a graduate student, Family and Consumer Sciences, University of Wyoming, Laramie.


      R. Budowle is an assistant professor, Haub School of Environment and Natural Resources,


      C. Porter is a professor, Kinesiology and Health, University of Wyoming, Laramie.


      B. Dai is an associate professor, Kinesiology and Health, University of Wyoming, Laramie.


      C. Gifford is an assistant professor, Animal Science, , University of Wyoming, Laramie.


      J. Keith is an assistant professor, Family and Consumer Sciences, University of Wyoming, Laramie.