Senior health science major Julia Brida has recently invested her time in researching food insecurity and how it affects children’s education.

Izzy manzo / equinox staff

Izzy manzo / equinox staff

“It’s much easier to see differences between people’s eating habits in a large town,” Brida said. When she was in elementary school, she said she noticed that some children would eat a lot of junk food with no nutritional value. “As a child especially, you need to eat lots of healthy foods,” Brida said.

Alternatively, Brida said she felt very energized and motivated in school because she had access to “healthy, energy-rich foods.” Brida said if students don’t eat enough healthy food, they cannot focus on their academics because “they are too focused on when they will eat next.”

Brida conducted a number of studies, both in her Health Psychology course and out of class, on children who experience food insecurity, and she found that many of the cases are due to the low income rate of the families. “A lot of these children come from a bad background or their parents don’t have enough money to feed them well,” Brida said.

However, Brida also said that some children and students in general choose to eat in a non-healthy way, even though they have the financial means. “You need to take the initiative to eat well,” Brida said. “It is easy to call in take-out or substitute snacking for a meal.”

Additionally, some students who need financial assistance from the school or their peers choose not to get help because they are embarrassed to reach out, according to Brida. Brida said she hopes the stigma surrounding food pantries and student charities will eventually be eliminated with the creation of student-and-faculty-oriented charities like The Hungry Owl, a food pantry on campus.

Brida said that if a student is having a hard time eating well or wants to improve his/her overall diet, there is free nutritional coaching available at the Health and Wellness Center in the Elliot Center. “They will help you eat well, even if you have a strict budget,” Brida said.

Shannon Sweeney is also a health science major at Keene State College. Sweeney knows Brida through classes that they have taken together and is also aware of Brida’s research involving food insecurity. “She is really great with the research she has done,” Sweeney said. “I am so happy that there is more awareness about food insecurity.”

Moreover, Sweeney said although she has never personally dealt with food insecurity, she is happy that more people are supporting those in need. “I don’t think a lot about it (food insecurity), but when I do, I feel very passionate about it,” Sweeney said.

Sweeney said food pantries like The Hungry Owl will help students who aren’t food-insecure, but don’t have enough time to make or buy food. 

“It’s a nice safety net,”  Sweeney said. “The transition from high school to college is a big adjustment, and many students have trouble making their own food and fending for themselves.”

Finally, Sweeney shared how much she admires Brida for her ambition and compassion. “Julia is very kind and caring. She always wants to help other people, which is a quality that is very synonymous with our major and our occupation,”  Sweeney said.

Brida’s advisor, Assistant Professor Margaret Henning, could not be contacted for an interview. 

Lucas Thors can be contacted at

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