Jackson Dellana1, Lexi Chimera1, Alisha Farris1, Danielle Nunnery1, Tara Harman2, Aston Dommel2, Kelsey Rushing2, Lee Stowers2, Christian Behrens Jr1. 1Appalachian State University, Boone, NC. 2University of Alabama at Birmingham, Birmingham, AL.

BACKGROUND: Food insecurity is a growing health concern among U.S. college students with reported incidence as high as 59%. Among this population are LGBTQ+ students and student athletes. It is well established that individuals identifying as LGBTQ+ are disproportionately affected by FI. However, data on student athletes, and particularly LGBTQ+ student athletes is lacking. Inadequate access to consistent, nutritious food can present barriers detrimental to success in the classroom as well as competitive athleticism. Therefore, the objective of this study was to measure the prevalence and severity of food insecurity among heterosexual (HS) and LGBTQ+ Division 1 student athletes and to identify possible reasons for observed differences in FI between these two groups. METHODS: Eligible Division 1 NCAA student athletes 18 years of age or older were included in this multi-site cross-sectional survey study. Data was collected using an anonymous online questionnaire (Qualtrics®), with food security status measured via the validated 10-item USDA survey. Additional information including demographic data, food and nutrition-related knowledge, and questions on sexual orientation were collected. RESULTS: A total of 404 participants completed the survey, with 380 identifying as HS and 24 identifying as LGBTQ+. A total of 59 (15.5%) HS student athletes experienced low food security and 67 (17.6%) experienced very low food security in the past 12 months. Conversely, 2 (8.3%) LGBTQ+ student athletes experienced low food security with 1 having experienced very low food security (4.2%) in the past 12 months. CONCLUSIONS: These results illustrate the high prevalence of food insecurity among Division 1 student athletes at two southeastern universities. When very low, low, and marginal FI are combined, approximately 50% of student athletes identified as food insecure. Though contrary to similar comparative studies on the LGBTQ+ population, our results show LGBTQ+ student athletes experiencing less food insecurity than the HS student athletes. Overall, these results demonstrate a need for strategies and interventions that increase access to consistent food resources in this population.

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