Influence of covid-19 pandemic restrictions on college students’ dietary quality and experience of the food environment

Francilia Brito Silva, Dawn E. Osborn, Meghan R. Owens, Tracie Kirkland, Carolyn E. Moore, Mindy A. Patterson, Wesley J. Tucker, Derek C. Miketinas, Kathleen E. Davis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Scopus citations


The COVID-19 pandemic restrictions sent college students online and off campus, potentially reducing access to healthy food. The objective of this cross-sectional, internet-based study was to use qualitative and quantitative survey methods to evaluate whether COVID-19 pandemic restrictions in Texas, USA affected college students’ ability to buy food, how/what they shopped for, how they prepared food, what they ate, how they felt about eating, and overall dietary quality (assessed using Healthy Eating Index [HEI] scores). Survey responses from 502 students (87.5% female; 59.6% nonwhite, mean age 27.5 ± 0.4 years, >50% graduate students) were analyzed. The qualitative analysis of open-ended questions revealed 110 codes, 17 subthemes, and six themes. Almost all students experienced changes in at least one area, the most common being changes in shopping habits. Participants with low or very low food security had lower HEI scores compared to food secure students (p = 0.047). Black students were more likely to report changes in their ability to buy food (p = 0.035). The COVID-19 restrictions varied in their impact on students’ ability to access sufficient healthy food, with some students severely affected. Thus, universities should establish procedures for responding to emergencies, including identifying at-risk students and mobilizing emergency funds and/or food assistance.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number2790
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 2021
Externally publishedYes


  • Coronavirus
  • Dietary quality
  • Food preparation
  • Food security
  • Healthy eating index
  • Qualitative assessment
  • Shopping habits

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Food Science
  • Nutrition and Dietetics


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