College food insecurity (FI) and poor psychosocial health are prevalent public health issues in the U.S., yet often overlooked. Since the COVID-19 pandemic, repercussions on these critical inequity issues remain unclear. During the summer months of 2020, this cross-sectional survey examined associations between students’ self-reported FI and perceived stress (PSS-10), one aspect of poor psychosocial health. An anonymous online survey was distributed to a convenience sample of college students at a land grant institution of higher education in the southeastern U.S., and $10 e-gift card was provided to survey respondents. The survey response rate was 26.2% (n=235) and participants were predominantly female, White, and from upper-division including junior and senior students. Among respondents, 31.3% were food insecure and 37.8% were laid off or temporarily furloughed. Students who worked before the pandemic were 3.49 times more likely to continue working despite the pandemic; however, employment status was not significantly associated with since-PSS-10 scores or FI. In multiple linear regression models, pre-PSS-10 scores, age, and lower division were significant predictors of since-PSS-10 scores. Additionally, students experiencing FI and having higher pre-PSS-10 scores were predicted of having higher since-PSS-10 scores. This study adds important findings about college FI and perceived stress to the limited literature regarding college student health during the pandemic. A more rigorous study design with a larger, nationally or regionally representative sample is recommended for future studies. To address both complex issues of college FI and poor psychosocial health, a multi-faceted interdisciplinary approach, well-supported by college administrators, would be warranted.

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.

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