Student food security and the role of food aid programs at the University of the Western Cape.
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Background: Food insecurity is a phenomenon affecting many developed countries, among them susceptible to food insecurity are tertiary students. Food insecurity affects the livelihoods of students and is a global problem. This causes doubt and anxiety which affects the educational outcome of students and losing focus on academic excellence. This study focuses on student food security and the role of campus food aid programs at the University of the Western Cape. Food security is an important aspect of people’s lives globally. While food insecurity is a significant challenge experienced by many South Africans nationally. Thus, necessary to shed light on the challenges of food among tertiary institutions and the relevance of food aid programs. Methods: The present study employed a mixed-method which has provided both significant elements of quantitative and qualitative research methods. A comprehensive review of the literature was employed, this includes both academic literature and grey literature on student food insecurity globally, nationally, and at UWC. Primary data and secondary data were collected to answer the research questions. The quantitative element of this study was conducted through an online questionnaire with thirty postgraduate students. While the qualitative element was conducted semi-structured with ten postgraduate students. Results: Students from low socio-economic backgrounds, without funding, covid 19, and expensive food on campus are some of the main causes of food insecurity. Students experiencing food insecurity have lost interest in their academics, performed less than their potential in academic assessments, some have failed the academic year and dropping out before time. The discontinuation of some food aid programs has increased the demand for food and the need for more food initiatives to be established. The role of food aid programs provided positive results in the alleviating of food insecurity during covid 19 and have proven consistency in the provision of food. Conclusion: This study aimed to bring awareness about the existence of food insecurity among postgraduate students. Stakeholders of the university, policymakers, and researchers must take into consideration the various effects of food insecurity and investigate the alleviation strategies. This prevents the increase in dropping out, students repeating the academic year, and getting an improvement in academic excellence and graduation rates