Food Outcast

The Reality of Food Insecurity for Graduate International Students

The United States is home to a large population of international students, but research shows that most students experience financial problems due to stringent F-1 visa restrictions. 

The purpose of this project was to explore international students’ experiences with food insecurity at a graduate university level.  

Unlike domestic students, they are unable to gain employment outside of the university or apply for federal aid. With international students’ income limited to a maximum of 20 working hours a week, they are two to three times more likely to be food insecure compared to their domestic peers.

Food insecurity is defined as limited or uncertain availability of food because of inadequate resources.

Alice Akers, Project Producer

Many international students are scared to talk about the reality of their situation and ask for help publicly. Instead, they find ways to adapt to survive.  As an international student from Ireland who has experienced food insecurity throughout my undergraduate and graduate degrees, I felt inspired to break the silence. 

My project consisted of three parts:

  1.  A survey distributed to graduate international students at the University of Florida to gain an understanding of their current experiences with food insecurity.  
  1.  A virtual reality tour of the Hitchcock Field and Fork Pantry, created to help students feel more comfortable with the space.  
  2. A podcast series called Food Outcast that includes eight episodes where students are given a platform to share their stories. 
Virtual Reality Tour of Hitchcock Field and Fork Pantry

The goal of the project was to give international students a safe space to share their experiences with food and resource insecurity, as well as a platform to offer personal suggestions on how to improve these conditions. Restricted incomes among international students reoccurs throughout the series as a key challenge. This challenge affects international students’ access to food and cultural ingredients, as well as causes issues with transportation and overall budget for consumer goods, including clothing.  

Participants proposed several solutions to improve their quality of life including:

  • Increased stipends 
  • Advisors having a better understanding of visa regulations 
  • Subsidized meal plans/grocery stipends 
  • Creating a stronger authoritative communication platform 
  • Introducing halal food options on campus for the Muslim community 

The hope is that by sharing these personal stories, higher education, national and state government, and communities will foster continued conversations and movements to combat the spiral of silence and ultimately prompt policy change to improve the quality of life of international students.  

Stop the Spiral of Silence around food insecurity!

Let’s continue to encourage change on university campuses for international students.

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