Communication strategies to facilitate emergency preparedness for Generation Z and college food pantries: Lessons from the COVID-19 pandemic
Keywords:Generation Z, COVID-19, college, food pantry, social media
Background: There is a paucity of research on college food pantry operations, especially in relation to emergency preparedness and disaster relief. However, there are multiple research studies confirming the efficacy of using social media to communicate with younger adults, especially Generation Z (Gen Z).
Methods: This study examines a college food pantry’s social media posts and pantry utilization in a midsize, public university in Texas, prior to and during the COVID-19 pandemic. Collegiate food insecurity was analyzed through the lens of the socioecological model. Social media data during the spring 2019 semester were compared using a two-way ANOVA prior to and following the origination of the COVID-19 pandemic within the state, and pantry utilization over the spring 2019 and fall 2020 semesters was evaluated using a t-test.
Results: There were significantly more likes per post on Instagram than other social media outlets, and there were significantly more impressions per post on Twitter as opposed to Facebook, with a trend toward more impressions per posts, after COVID-19. There was no significant difference in food pantry utilization between the fall and spring semester aside from a spike after return following the spring recess, confirmed as Grubb’s outlier. Application of the socioecological model emphasized the importance of interdisciplinary collaboration and multitiered interventions during an emergency, including the use of social media.
Conclusion: This information can help collegiate organizations reach more students through targeted posting on select social media platforms used by their students. Interdisciplinary, inclusive approaches are recommended to reduce food insecurity for Gen Z students.
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