Campus Food Pantry Use Is Linked to Better Health Among Public University Students

Suzanna M. Martinez, Gwen M. Chodur, Erin E. Esaryk, Sevan Kaladijian, Lorrene D. Ritchie, Michael Grandner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Objective: To examine retrospectively whether access to a campus food pantry (CFP) is related to improvements in sleep, mental health, and physical health among college students in a public university system. Design: Retrospective, cross-sectional study of student CFP users who completed an online survey in the summer of 2019. Setting: Ten-campus University of California system. Participants: A total of 1,855 students completed the survey. Main variables measured: Students reported the number of CFP visits in a usual week or month. Students retrospectively rated their perceived health, depressive symptoms, and sleep sufficiency before and after having food pantry access. The difference between pre- and post-food pantry access responses was calculated. Analysis: Path analysis was used to examine direct and indirect paths of the relationship between CFP visits with self-reported changes in depressive symptoms and perceived health through positive changes in self-reported sleep sufficiency, controlling for sociodemographic factors. Results: More monthly CFP visits were directly related to decreased depressive symptoms and improved perceived health (βdepressive = 0.10, P < 0.001; βhealth = 0.12, P < 0.001). In addition, more CFP visits were related to improved sleep sufficiency (β = 0.09, P = 0.001), which in turn was related to a decrease in depressive symptoms (β = 0.24, P = 0.001; indirect effect: 0.02, P < 0.01) and improved perceived health (β = 0.23, P < 0.001; indirect effect: 0.02, P < 0.01). Conclusions and Implications: Findings suggest that college campus emergency food access is associated with self-reported improvements in student health outcomes associated with food security. Until more long-term solutions that improve college student nutrition are developed, food pantries may be filling a gap.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)491-498
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Nutrition Education and Behavior
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2022


  • food insecurity
  • health
  • mental health
  • sleep
  • student support services

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Nutrition and Dietetics


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