University of East Anglia launches food bank initiative to help tackle rising student poverty in the UK

UEA now joins Manchester Central Foodbank and the University of Hull in the fight against food poverty among students

Katie Gleeson
Monday 23 November 2015 19:00

The University of East Anglia’s students’ union has launched a new student initiative to help in the country’s fight against poverty.

As part of its Cost of Living campaign, the Union of UEA Students (UEASU) began the FoodbankSU project which aims to tackle student poverty in order to ensure young people “have the time and money to get as much as they can from their education.”

UEA’s initiative will operate using donations of food and money collected from students in the campus shop which will be split between the student food bank and ones in Norwich itself.

Those in need are required to make an appointment with the dean of students or the advice centre, and will then be presented with a token which can be exchanged for a food parcel. As well as this, the scheme will actively run a donation drive later in the year in order to improve awareness of the campaign and to increase the amount of food available for students and locals who require it.

Trussell Trust Foodbanks:

Commenting on the launch of FoodbankSU, postgraduate education officer Liam McCafferty described student poverty as being “a real issue.” He said: “Casework through our advice service tells us flatlining student maintenance support, the rising cost of living, and sky high accommodation prices are forcing some UEA students into impossible situations and dangerous payday debt.”

A post on the UEA postgraduate education blog says acknowledges how “students are struggling with bills, rent, and food costs.” It adds: “That’s why we’re launching FoodbankSU: to make sure you can get support with your cost of living in the here and now.”

It isn’t just UEA students who are being affected by the results of the Government’s austerity measures. Student poverty is a growing nationwide problem. A 2015 research report on poverty among young people in the UK showed there are 440,000 students living in poverty, making up 25 per cent of young people in poverty in Britain. The report also showed there was a poverty rate of 42 per cent among students.

Moreover, the National Student Money Survey 2015 showed a substantial 80 per cent of students “worry about making ends meet,” as 48 per cent and 63 per cent of survey respondents added how this affected their studies and diet respectively. The survey results also led to the conclusion that student maintenance loans “are not fit for purpose,” with two in three respondents admitting to having difficulty in living off the loan as provided by Student Finance. Another 82 per cent branded Student Finance’s loan calculations as “unfair”.

With 22 per cent of survey respondents stating they supported themselves financially by gambling, medical trials, payday loans and “adult” work - alongside statistics revealing significant proportions of poverty and dissatisfaction - it has been said it is difficult for universities to continue to turn a blind eye to startling truths concerning student welfare.

UEASU is not alone in running a food bank for its students. Earlier this year, Vice reported on the Manchester Central Foodbank’s increasing number of student users and, last year, the number of students receiving food parcels from the University of Hull’s union doubled.

Twitter: @katieeegleeeson

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