The Repository @ St. Cloud State

Open Access Knowledge and Scholarship

Date of Award


Culminating Project Type


Degree Name

Higher Education Administration: Ed.D.


Educational Administration and Higher Education


School of Education

First Advisor

Dr. Jennifer Jones

Second Advisor

Dr. Steven McCullar

Third Advisor

Dr. Allan Goracke

Fourth Advisor

Dr. Frances Kayona

Creative Commons License

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

Keywords and Subject Headings

Food insecurity, sense of belonging


The current study collected and evaluated students’ firsthand stories to learn whether their stress from nutritional intake or lack thereof impacts students’ health, well-being, coursework, sense of belonging and mattering, and persistence. Additionally, this narrative study investigated students’ experiences with a college pantry on their campus. The students were invited to share personal narratives about their engagement with the campus food pantry and their feelings about any perceived effects of this institutional support in such areas as health, self-esteem, community support, academics, motivation, and future plans.

The research question presented in this study utilizing a qualitative narrative-inquiry approach was the following: What are the experiences of food-insecure students at a two-year college in Minnesota? The study explored Baumeister and Leary’s theory of the Sense of Belonging (previously described in the third tier of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, “love and belonging”); Morris Rosenberg’s theory of Mattering; Schlossberg’s theory of Mattering and Marginality; and Tinto’s Framework of Student Departure. It was through these frameworks that the current study connected a student’s basic need of food, a sense of belonging along with a sense of mattering. With the sense of belonging and a sense of mattering, the current study explored the degree to which regularly accessible student-support services such as a food pantry could foster health, and greater percentages of student persistence, completion, and graduation from students’ programs.

The results of this study show that food-insecure students are suffering from physical- and mental-health issues, lack of energy, lack of focus needed for class work, stress, anxiety, poor self-care, and undesirable behaviors such as stealing or other non-ideal methods of obtaining food for survival. Additionally, findings from the students suggest that if a college campus offers a food pantry to its students, it may inspire food-insecure students to have a greater sense of belonging and mattering to their institution, with a variety of benefits to the student, the college, and the community.

INDEX WORDS: food insecurity, sense of belonging, mattering, student persistence, student success, academic performance, and food pantry.


First and foremost, I would like to thank my advisor and committee chair, Dr. Jennifer Jones, for her continual guidance and support throughout the stages of this project and research. I would also like to thank my committee members, Dr. Brittany Williams, Dr. Frances Kayona, Dr. Steven McCullar, and Dr. Allan Goracke for providing their expertise, edits, and feedback. Additionally, I would like to thank my personal mentor and editor, Diana Ostrander for her encouragement, support, and guidance.

I would like to thank all the students that participated in this project. Their stories of food insecurity will hopefully help raise awareness of the challenges that our students are facing while they are in college. Finally, a special thanks to my children, Jennifer Koontz and Drew Koontz who inspire me to be the best that I can possibly be.



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