A nutrition and health expert at Edge Hill is investigating the role that term-time employment plays in protecting University students at risk of experiencing food poverty.

Dr Claire Blennerhassett, a Lecturer in Nutrition and Health, is leading a new study to assess whether working helps to minimise the risk of students facing food insecurity, and is encouraging all students across the North West to complete this online survey containing multiple choice questions.  

Students do not have to have experience of working during term time or of food poverty to take part in this phase of the project. 

In the second phase of the project, Dr Blennerhassett particularly wants to speak to University students in the region who have experienced some level of changes in eating patterns, for example missing meals or eating a less varied diet, because of lack of money and other resources. 

She is keen to understand more about student’s experiences of food poverty, the support they accessed and their coping strategies during their time at University. As such, participants will be required to take part in an interview either online or via phone. Students interested in taking part can register their interest and availability for interview here

According to Dr Blennerhassett, who is a registered dietitian, a shortfall between maintenance grants and living expenses appears to be responsible for a rise in term-time employment and higher rates of food insecurity in student populations. 

She said: “Both term-time employment and food insecurity are highly prevalent in University students. The negative impact of these issues on academic performance and mental health is a concern that requires government intervention. 

“University students are typically reliant on term-time employment to bridge the gap between loans and maintenance grants and living costs, however the usual forms of employment have been limited during the last 12 months due to the impact on the retail and hospitality sector.” 

According to the Food Standards Agency, in the UK, it is estimated that food insecurity has more than doubled as a consequence of COVID-19 and lockdown restrictions. 

Dr Blennerhassett added: “As such, Universities may need to do more to ensure that students know how to access support, especially those on means tested allowances that do not meet costs of living expenses. Furthermore, Government policy for university funding needs to be reviewed to enable students from all backgrounds to fulfil their potential.” 

Edge Hill’s Student Support Fund provides non-repayable discretionary awards and emergency short term loans to assist students in financial difficulty, who might otherwise be at risk of leaving their courses because of financial hardship. 

The  fund  may be available to provide help for full-time (and eligible part-time) students who have serious financial difficulties or whose access to higher education might be inhibited because of financial reasons. 

Studying a Nutrition and Health degree at Edge Hill, students will learn in our professional food skills area, science lab and Clinical Skills & Simulation Centre. Students can kickstart their career by applying for direct entry as a registered associate nutritionist with the Association for Nutrition once you finish the course.