Food security status and related factors of undergraduate students receiving financial aid at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, Pietermaritzburg Campus.
Objectives: To determine the prevalence of food insecurity and related factors among undergraduate recipients of financial aid at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, Pietermaritzburg Campus (UKZN- PMB) and whether there is a relationship between food security status and academic performance. Design: A cross-sectional descriptive survey was conducted assessing the food security status and related factors of students on financial aid. Setting: UKZN-PMB campus, situated in Scottsville, Pietermaritzburg, with a student population of 9 785. Subjects: A sample of 268 students on financial aid was randomly selected. First year and post graduate level students were excluded. Outcome measures: A self-administered questionnaire consisting of the four main sections, including: anthropometric status and socio-demographic information, food frequency questionnaire (FFQ), household food insecurity access scale (HFIAS), nutrition knowledge questionnaire (NKQ) and combined performance index (CPI) scores. Results: The mean BMI of the study sample was 24.4 ± 4.7 kg/m2. A fifth (21.4%) of the sample was overweight and a tenth (12.4%) was obese. An increase in BMI was associated with an increase in food insecurity. The foods consumed „more than once a day‟, included the starch group, fats and coffee and tea. Just over half (53.0%) of the sample received no additional allowance apart from financial aid. The majority (82.4%) of the sample spent most of their money on food. The mean amount of monthly food expenditure was R558.40 ± R211.12. Over a third (34.7%) of the sample was food insecure with another third (33.6 %) being at risk of food insecurity. Almost a tenth (9.7%) of the sample was severely food insecure and just over a fifth (22%) was food secure. The main coping strategy adopted was seeking assistance from friends. The mean NKQ score of the sample was 18.8 ± 3.8 (58.6%) which fell within the “average” range. Food insecure students had a lower mean CPI score than those who are food secure. Conclusion: There was a high prevalence of food insecurity and obesity among the study sample. The diets lacked diversity with a low consumption of fruit and vegetables. Nutrition knowledge seems to have no impact on food choice. Food insecurity impacted negatively on academic performance.