Date of Award


Degree Type

Honors College Thesis

Academic Program

Elementary Education BS


Educational Studies and Research

First Advisor

Michael Fitzgerald, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

Noal Chochran, Ph.D.

Third Advisor

Sabine Heinhorst, Ph.D.

Advisor Department

Child and Family Studies


Food insecurity has significantly increased throughout the United States as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Many schools switched to remote learning and children lost access to free school meals, affecting them psychologically and academically. This study examined the relationship between food insecurity and low academic outcomes, accounting for student mental health, such as anxiety, depression, and ADHD, as well as parental involvement as a possible protective factor against mental health. The current study administered a survey through Amazon’s MTurk to reach a diverse group of participants across the United States. Data analysis from the study can conclude that food insecurity has a significant effect on student mental health, as well as student GPA; however, parental involvement has no effect on improving students’ mental health and mediating mental health and GPA. This study supports numerous research on the effects of food insecurity on mental health but contributes new findings to the effects of COVID-19 on student mental health and GPA. Higher levels of food insecurity lead to higher levels of anxiety, depression, inattention, and/or hyperactivity, in turn resulting in a lower overall GPA. Parental involvement moderated the relationship between anxiety/ depression and inattention but did not moderate the relationship between hyperactivity and GPA. These results provide significant implications for parents, teachers, school districts, and lawmakers to find ways to address food insecurity. Policies and programs implementing a take-home meal system, or ways of distributing food to those students affected by COVID-19 may be particularly effective. COVID-19 notwithstanding, 5 use of these programs may increase academic performance among those who struggled with food insecurity before and following COVID-19.

Keywords: food insecurity, COVID-19, student mental health, academic success, pandemic, parental involvement, ADHD, depression, anxiety, inattention, hyperactivity