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UC Davis Student Parent Wellness Program

By offering prepared meals at the Dining Commons and campus eateries, nutritional and dietary counseling and information, access to drop in child care and babysitting, and a student parent-specific fitness class, the UC Davis Student Parent Wellness Programs provides a comprehensive, integrative, and collaborative approach to fostering the wellness and success of student parents.

Introduction:

Student parents are an often underserved population with distinct needs. As highlighted in a 2019 University of California Office of the President (UCOP) report on parenting students, student parents experience significantly higher levels of housing and food insecurity than students who are not parents (UC Institutional Research and Academic Planning, 2019). In addition to basic needs, key challenges for student parents include being more likely to commute longer distances to campus, to work while going to school, and to have difficulty finding time to study. “Ninety-three percent of undergraduate student parents reported to at least occasionally having family responsibilities as an obstacle to their school work or academic success, 40 percentage points higher than that of other undergraduate students (53 percent)” (UC Institutional Research and Academic Planning, 2019, p.6).

To address these needs, the UC Davis Student Parent Wellness Program will provide UC Davis student parents with support, opportunity, information, and tools to engage in healthy behaviors. This program will provide:

  • Prepared meals at the Dining Commons and campus eateries
  • Nutritional and dietary counseling and information
  • Opportunities for supervised care for their children
  • A student parent-specific fitness class

Outcomes: 

Research on student parents notes significant challenges to maintaining a healthy lifestyle and persisting to graduation. In regards to physical health, the 2019 UCOP report shared that "Close to half (46 percent) of undergraduate parenting students reported that they did not spend any time participating in physical activities, while only 16 percent of non-parenting students did not do so" (UC Institutional Research and Academic Planning, 2019, p.5).

Mental health struggles are also an issue, as the stress of balancing multiple and competing life roles and responsibilities makes it difficult to focus on well-being. Student parents often suffer from “time poverty” (Contreras-Mendez & Reichlin Cruse, 2021), through which they are so busy trying to keep things together that there is no time left to cultivate a healthy, balanced lifestyle. Student parents report skipping meals, eating less, or eating less nutritious meals due to lack of time to cook (Kienzl, Hu, Caccavella & Goldrick-Rab, 2022). Mental and physical health concerns contribute to lower graduation rates for student parents (Contreras-Mendez & Reichlin Cruse, 2021).

The goals of this program are to:

  • Increase student parents’ access to nutritious, ready-made meals
  • Decrease the number of times student parents skip meals, eat less, or eat less nutritious food
  • Decrease “time poverty” by giving student parents access to supervised child care
  • Increase the number of hours student parents participate in physical activity

Opportunities for Involvement: 

Are you a student organization or department that offers wellness-related programs? We'd be happy to discuss opportunities to partner in offering workshops or demonstrations for our student parents and their families! You can contact Marissa at mlweiss@ucdavis.edu for more information.


Recent Milestones:

30 student parents have been selected to participate in the Student Parent Wellness program. Fall quarter activities included an orientation, StepUp pedometer challenge, webinar and meetings with the Registered Dietician, introduction to CAN Counselor Tracy Thomas, Aggie Cash cards, and a Teaching Kitchen demonstration.


Project Lead:

Marissa Weiss
Transfer Retention Specialist
Transfer and Reentry Center
mlweiss@ucdavis.edu

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