The USDA defines food insecurity as “a lack of consistent access to enough food for an active, healthy life.”

Recent surveys conducted at UVM found that one in five UVM students were food insecure, with some demographics showing higher levels.

What is Food Insecurity?

The USDA defines food insecurity as “a lack of consistent access to enough food for an active, healthy life.” There are various ranges of food security that span from very low food security to high food security. Hunger and food security are closely related, but distinct, concepts. Hunger refers to an individual physical sensation of discomfort that may result from food insecurity, while food insecurity refers to the economic and social condition of limited or uncertain access to adequate food at the household level.

Food Insecurity Working Group

Awareness of food insecurity across college campuses in the United States has been a topic of concern as sociodemographics in higher education change and costs continue to rise. While academic studies exploring food insecurity on campus have been published for nearly a decade, a report published in October 2016 surveyed students across many institutions and found that students experience food insecurity at rates significantly higher than the national average.

In the fall of 2016, a group at the University of Vermont, headed by the Center for Health and Wellbeing, was formed to explore experiences of food insecurity in the campus community. The group is now comprised of students, faculty, and staff from across campus offices that work diligently to address and create solutions to food insecurity at UVM.

Food Insecurity Working Group Members

  • TRIO
  • The Mosaic Center for Students of Color
  • UVM Human Resources
  • Office of Student and Community Relations (OSCR)
  • Campus Kitchens Project
  • Cooperative Christian Ministry
  • UVM Student Government Association
  • Student Financial Services
  • UVM Dining
  • Nutrition and Food Science Department
  • UVM Center for Health & Wellbeing
  • Challah for Hunger
  • Graduate Senate

For questions about the working group or Swipe Out Hunger please contact
Nicole Reilly, MS, RD- UVM Dining at For questions the data or research on food insecurity at UVM please contact: Meredith T. Niles, PhD- Nutrition and Food Science Department at

For information on our short and long-term goals and strategies: *Food Insecurity at UVM (PDF)

UVM Survey Research and Findings

Survey Methodology

  • During the spring of the 2017, the Food Insecurity Working Group conducted a survey to a random sample of 4,500 students (undergraduate, graduate, and medical), faculty, and staff to determine base line levels of food insecurity on campus.
  • The initial surveys included a 10 question module that is utilized by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) to measure food insecurity nationally, thus making our data nationally comparable.
  • The data indicated that there were potential challenges with food insecurity on campus, but the initial survey did not ask enough questions to give a clear understanding of the challenges and potential solutions.
  • Interviews were conducted with a number of on-campus departments and administrative offices to better understand the issues and challenges they see with student and staff food security. This insight helped to inform additional questions for a second survey.
  • A second survey was deployed in fall 2017. The second survey used the same questions from the first survey to provide data across time periods, but also addressed new questions that arose from the interviews. There was a 24.5% and 25.8% response rate in the spring and fall respectively.


  • 19.6% and 15% of the UVM community were found to be food insecure in the spring and fall survey, respectively. The statewide average for food insecurity is 10%.
  • In the spring survey, one in four UVM undergraduate students identified as being food insecure. The fall survey identified one in five UVM undergraduate students as being food insecure.
  • Off-campus students had higher rates of food insecurity at 27.1% in the spring and 21.0% in the fall demonstrating an “off-campus effect.”
  • First generation students were significantly more likely to be food insecure in both surveys, with rates of 39.3% in the spring and 28.1% in the fall.
  • Respondents identifying as people of color were significantly more likely to be food insecure in the spring survey only at 27.8%.
  • Transgender/queer/non-conforming students had much higher rates of food insecurity, which was statistically significant in fall 2017.
  • Students face food insecurity more at the beginning of the semester after purchasing course materials such as books and near the end of the semester before finals.

Swipe Out Hunger UVM

The University of Vermont piloted its meal share program in the spring of 2019. The program operates as a partnership between the Food Insecurity Working Group, UVM Dining, and the Swipe Out Hunger national campaign. This pilot program is intended to help students with short-term financial difficulties until another more sustainable funding source/community resources can be put into place. It is not intended to cover food/meals for the semester.
How it Works: Meal donation drives will be hosted the week before finals during peak times at dining locations across campus. Students can donate one guest meal swipe each semester, which will be redistributed to students facing food insecurity throughout the year. This transitional program provides meals (up to 14 per academic year) for students in financial crisis until a more sustainable solution can be found.

Need swipes?
Talk to any staff or faculty member, or stop by the following offices to apply and learn more about community resources:

  •   LivingWell
  •   Student Health Services (SHS)
  •   Counseling and Psychiatry Services (CAPS)
  •   TRIO
  •   The Mosaic Center for Students of Color
  •   Academic Coordinators (Student Services)
  •   Office of Student and Community Relations
  •   Student Financial Services
  •   Advising Center
  •   Dean's Office Support Services
  •   UVM Dining Dietitian

Rally Cat's Cupboard

The SGA and Graduate Senate is working to open Rally Cat’s Cupboard in the Spring 2020 semester. It will be located in the Hills building, room 15. Please follow @uvmSGA on Instagram for current hours.

Additional Resources

Learn more about available resources and other supportive sources to alleviate hunger by clicking on the resources and links below.


Contact Us

For questions about the working group and ways to get involved please contact:
Nicole Reilly, MS, RD- UVM Dining at

For questions regarding the data or research on food insecurity at UVM please contact:
Meredith T. Niles, PhD- Nutrition and Food Science Department at

Get Involved

• Interested in making donations to the Rally Cat’s Cupboard (UVM’s on-campus food pantry) or support other food insecurity initiatives on campus?
• For monetary donations please visit our secure donation page:
• To donate non-perishable items please drop off items at the SGA office (3rd floor in the UVM Davis Center