Sarah Lockerbie (20) and student Rhys Bell (22), pictured with son Jai (1 month), accessed emergency assistance through the Otago Polytechnic Students' Association after falling on tough financial times earlier this year. Photo by Peter McIntosh.
An Otago Polytechnic student who turned to his students'
association when he was in financial strife is not surprised
student demand for foodbanks is increasing.
Automotive engineering student Rhys Bell was ''extremely''
grateful for the support he got from the Otago Polytechnic
Students' Association (OPSA) last month in the weeks leading
up to the birth of his son Jai.
''If we didn't get that assistance, we would have been in a
lot worse state than we are now, probably a lot more
underfed,'' Mr Bell said.
He is one of a growing number of financially struggling
students seeking assistance from Dunedin student
associations. Demand for Otago University Students'
Association (OUSA) food packages climbed 12% this year
compared with the corresponding time last year.
Demand for assistance from OPSA had also climbed in recent
years, to the point where it changed the way it gave out
assistance last year.
Mr Bell, who received groceries and money to pay for petrol
and rent, said he was not surprised about the increase, given
the troubles people had dealing with Studylink and Work and
His and his partner's financial issues were related to
Studylink eligibility, with their relationship not classed as
''de facto'' until their son was born.
He said the perception students could get by on almost
nothing was not the ''right way of thinking''.
''Everybody's entitled to food and power. Everyone needs it
OPSA president Rebecca Swindells said many students ''don't
get enough to live on'', with those on student loans
receiving about $170 for living costs.
After paying up to $130 on rent, students had little left
over to pay for other necessities, she said.
There had been increased demand for financial support from
OPSA in recent years, which had resulted in it changing how
it provided assistance. There is now more focus on ''food
bags'' and Go Cards, instead of emergency assistance and
''Demand has continued to rise and a lot of the demand has
come from the part-time full-year students, [who] are not
entitled to all of the components of student loans,'' she
OUSA president Francisco Hernandez said fewer jobs, cuts to
student allowances and Studylink delays affected demand for
OUSA food parcels, which had risen by 12%.