Are Minority Serving Institutions Contributing to Unhealthy Eating and Health Disparities Among College Students: A Pilot Study

  •  Jannat Begum    
  •  Naa-Solo Tettey    


Dietary habits are developed through a combination of biological, environmental, socioeconomic, and psychosocial factors. However, these dietary habits can also be influenced by access and education. College undergraduate years are important for the development of life skills including the ability to select nutritious meals. This is of vital importance for students who are from communities that are classified as food desserts and food swamps, where positive nutrition behaviors may not be supported. The purpose of this pilot study was to assess the food options at two minority serving institutions in New Jersey to determine the amount of healthy options available. A content analysis was completed by assessing the menus of the selected dining services at the respective institutions and determining their health impact. Twenty-seven food establishments were analyzed. The food locations were categorized into healthy dining (7.4%), unhealthy dining (14.8%), healthy fast food (7.4%), unhealthy fast food (40.7%), healthy café (3.7%), unhealthy café (18.5%), healthy prepackaged (0%), and unhealthy prepackaged (7.4%). Healthy eateries made up 18.5% and unhealthy eateries made up 81.4% of the food offerings. This significant difference in healthy compared to unhealthy offerings is a call to action to improve food choices on the campuses of minority serving institutions. Chronic diseases continue to impact people of younger ages and contribute to health disparities. Colleges have a unique opportunity to positively influence the lifestyle behaviors that can decrease these chronic disease rates. Future studies should investigate the food options at minority serving institutions throughout the United States.

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