Student food insecurity; budget problems delay research

By Samantha Hickey, News Editor

What started as a three-semester long honors project has turned into a research project delayed by  budget challenges for UA non-traditional student Tannya Forcone.

Forcone began her studies in the 2015 spring semester in her field methods class, a course geared towards experiential learning, where Forcone and her classmates were exploring retention rates of black males at the University.

The field methods students proceeded to interview over 460 UA students, where they learned that several of the interviewees had dropped out due to not being able to afford to eat, work, and attend class.

“During this time, several of us student researchers discovered several anecdotal situations where students were going without food just to attend college,” Forcone said.

After deciding to take her school project as a personal initiative, Forcone contacted UA’s Associate Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer Wayne Hill. Forcone said Hill challenged her to show that food insecurity on UA’s campus was a genuine, widespread issue.  

The student researchers from the field methods class conducted a pilot study and received addendum approval from the Internal Review Board. This board governs human research to determine if researchers are handling participants in an ethical manner.

“We used a five item checklist based on the USDA survey to determine if anyone has gone hungry or regularly goes hungry,” Forcone said. “ In less than three days we collected 466 usable responses.  These showed a 36.9 percent rate of food insecurity among current UA students.”

According to the Akron-Canton Regional Food Bank’s website, “1 in 7 individuals in our service area is food insecure, meaning they lack regular access to safe and nutritious food.”

Forcone continued to further her research, producing a report based on her previous pilot study as a proposal to Hill and Stacey Moore, UA’s associate vice president of student success, in hopes of continuing her studies.

Forcone received approval from the Internal Review Board on Nov. 2, 2015, but has been waiting on the approval for funding for her research ever since. According to Forcone, the last she heard from Moore was on Nov. 10, a single response saying, “so far, we have gotten a ‘no’ – I’m just trying to change that,” referring to the approval of funding.

“Right now, it really is budget challenges and trying to figure out what we can do to support excellent projects like Tannya’s while also trying to make sure we are supporting all of our student programs and services,” Moore clarified in an email on Nov. 23. “I think we’ll be able to get there – it is just taking longer than anyone would like.”

According to Forcone, the funding was never officially granted, so technically can not be referred to as being “cut,” but she said she did receive a verbal confirmation from administration. Forcone insists that she would have used other routes for funding, such as external sources. She also said she would not have begun the Internal Review Board process either, due to the amount of work it involved.

Because Forcone is scheduled to graduate in May 2016, her chances to conduct the research on food insecurity are growing smaller as every day passes.

“Whether I am the researcher or not, this needs to be looked into,” Forcone said. “Students are hungry.”