Lack of College On-Campus Food Options and Eating Disorders

College Cafeteria

Colleges students today face unprecedented challenges, including academic pressures, establishing their own identity and autonomy, balancing work with school and a social life, and more.

For many college students, these years are a time to learn how to care for themselves independently, including everything from cooking, grocery shopping, paying bills and other such responsibilities and tasks.

While this may come naturally for some students, other college students may find it a challenge to learn how to juggle self-care with the other demands they may be facing, and it is not uncommon to see some of these important needs slip by the wayside.

Resources for College Students

Many students will rely heavily on the on-campus food options for meals, especially if the campus is in a remote location or there are a lack of resources for cooking in the dorms or college resident area. Depending on the school or university, food choices on campus may range from a small scale grocery store to a cafeteria to chain restaurants.

Perhaps the challenge the college students face is redundancy with food and learning how to make the most from the selection that is available. For college students who may be susceptible to eating disorders, the challenges that might be faced when it comes to food selections can serve as a trigger.

Data from one college over a 13 year period shows total eating disorders increased from 23 to 32% among females and from 8 to 25% among males [1]. Eating disorders among college students is a prevalent issue, and students who are aware of some of the challenges they may face might be better able to overcome potential obstacles.

Eating adequately and consistently is of the utmost importance to maintain health and wellness, particularly as a college student. Planning for potential challenges that may make this difficult is essential during the years spent as a college student and in developing a life skill.

Working With What You Have

As a college student, it is always important to know your options when it comes to food. What choices does your cafeteria offer that you can work with? What variety can you create with the resources you have available? Is it possible to plan ahead for meal times where you may not be able to eat on-campus?

Setting aside regular times for grocery shopping, such as once a week, can help you plan ahead and have staples on hand that you can work with, such as soups, sandwiches, breakfast items, and more.

Having some food storage essentials in your dorm can also help open up your opens, such as a microwave, kettle, and mini-fridge. Remember how important self-care is, and planning for consistent and regular

Crystal Headshot 2About the Author: Crystal is a Masters-level Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN) with a specialty focus in eating disorders, maternal/child health and wellness, and intuitive eating. Combining clinical experience with a love of social media and writing, Crystal serves as the Director of Content and Social Media for Eating Disorder Hope/Addiction Hope, where her passion to help others find recovery and healing is integrated into each part of her work.

As a Certified Intuitive Eating Counselor, Crystal has dedicated her career to helping others establish a healthy relationship with food and body through her work with EDH/AH and nutrition private practice.


[1]: White, S, Reynolds–Malear, J., Cordero, E., “Disordered Eating and the Use of Unhealthy weight control methods in college students: 1995, 2002 and 2008” Eating Disorders– Journal of treatment and prevention: volume 19 Number 4 July-September 2011.

The opinions and views of our guest contributors are shared to provide a broad perspective of eating disorders. These are not necessarily the views of Eating Disorder Hope, but an effort to offer discussion of various issues by different concerned individuals.

We at Eating Disorder Hope understand that eating disorders result from a combination of environmental and genetic factors. If you or a loved one are suffering from an eating disorder, please know that there is hope for you, and seek immediate professional help.

Reviewed By: Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC on March 12, 2017
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