A new research project at Holland College aims to better understand food insecurity and how it's affecting post-secondary students on P.E.I.
The research involves surveying students from all 13 of the college's campuses to determine the barriers students may encounter when trying to access affordable and nutritious food.
The Holland College Student Union, the International Office and Canada's Smartest Kitchen will participate in the project, along with students in the college's practical nursing program.
Once the data is collected, researchers hope to develop policies and strategies to combat food insecurity and better support students, said Debra Smith, lead researcher on the project.
"We created an online survey that's going to be delivered to our students all across Holland College campuses on P.E.I.," Smith said.
"We're going to try and measure the level of food insecurity at our campuses as well as some barriers to accessing healthy food ... the impact of not having healthy food."
We do know just from talking to other faculty and staff that it is a problem. — Debra Smith, lead researcher
Food insecurity can either be defined as inadequate access to food in general or insufficient access to nutritious food, Smith said.
"There's very limited knowledge on post-secondary students and food insecurity in Canada," she said.
Lack of data
Through the survey, researchers on the project hope to get an estimate of the number of Holland College students who are dealing with food insecurity.
Currently, Holland College doesn't have any formal research or data on the subject.
"We don't really know a lot about our students that are accessing food banks, we don't have any information on them. So we don't know if it's a whole bunch of students who are accessing it once or twice, or if it is a small group of students who are accessing it regularly," Smith said.
"But we do know just from talking to other faculty and staff that it is a problem."
Most of the college's campuses have a food bank run by volunteers, she said.
Smith said the survey is expected to go live next week and hopes to be able to release the findings by the spring.
She said she is working on creating partnerships with other institutions including UPEI, to expand the reach of the work.
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