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Locating Safe Spaces for Food Insecure Female Community College Students

Food insecurity is a problem on many college campuses and as such is an increasing focus of research (Ferguson, 2004; et al., 2014; Meldrum & Willows, 2006; Patton-López, et al., 2014; Powers, 2012; Rondeau, 2007). These studies and others (Chaparro, et al., 2009; Freudenberg, et al, 2011; Hughes, et al., 2011; Lindsley & King, 2014) report that from 21-69% of college students experience food insecurity. I examined college student food insecurity at a small rural community college in Massachusetts in an attempt to discover safe spaces for female students to disclose food insecurity and the characteristics of those safe spaces. Additionally, I explored various aspects of identity, including gender, that impact student’s willingness and ability to seek resources for food insecurity. Eight students participated in two rounds of interviews and provided photographic data of spaces they identified as safe on campus. I discovered that gender and other identities such as race and LGBT status do not play a large role in comfort seeking resources; however, gender does shape how students define safe spaces. Safe spaces were characterized in abstract terms for all participants (safe people being the biggest theme) but for females, safety was also concrete and included physical characteristics such as lighting and proximity to campus police. Finally, although participants did not hold spaces to be identity based, nor did they identify with an identity of being food insecure or low-income, they did feel most comfortable in safe spaces that were resource based such as veteran service, disability services and the college counselor.