Date of Award

Fall 2019

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Educational Foundations & Leadership


Higher Education

Committee Director

Chris R. Glass

Committee Member

Kim Bullington Sibson

Committee Member

Jason Lynch


Strengthening Wellness for Food Insecure Students; Altruism, Spirituality and Academic Performance is a quantitative methods study using a mediated analysis with structural equation modeling to test the extent to which wellness dimensions mediate the relationship between food insecurity and student grade point average. Student food insecurity is a growing concern at higher education institutions across the United States (Cady, 2014; Goldrick-Rab & Cook, 2011; Maroto, Snelling & Linck, 2015) with food insecurity rates ranging from 14% to 59% in recent studies (Freudenberg, Manzo, Jones, Kwan, Tsui & Gagnon, 2011; Patton-Lopez, Lopez-Cevallos, Cancel-Tirado & Vazquez, 2014). This phenomenon on college campuses is also reporting negative impacts on students’ wellness (El Zein, 2017a; Gallegos, Ramsey & Ong, 2014) and academic performance (El Zein, 2017a; Maroto, Snelling & Linck, 2015). While higher education institutions have begun to address this concern with food pantries and social services, the purpose of this study is to examine the role of student wellness in the relationship between food insecurity and academic performance.

The methodological approach for this study includes a mediation analysis with structural equation modeling as well as an exploratory factor analysis which determined factor loadings for items related to the nine dimensions of wellness in the study: social, emotional, physical, financial, occupational, environmental, cultural, spiritual, and intellectual. Findings from the study identify 48% of the sample report some type of food insecurity within the last twelve months. The study also presents a comprehensive model demonstrating the relationship between wellness, food security, and grade point average. The outcomes from the model include the identification of four core wellness dimensions: socioemotional, altruism, spiritual, and physical (diet and exercise), which are mediated by academic/career wellness for predicting grade point average outcomes. In addition, food security is also reported as correlating with financial stress and substance use. Implications for higher education practitioners, policymakers, and future research are discussed.


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