Students overwhelm foodbank services

Otago University Students' Association welfare officer Shonelle Eastwood (left) and budget...
Otago University Students' Association welfare officer Shonelle Eastwood (left) and budget adviser Lora Johnston pick vegetables for a foodbank package from a garden at the OUSA student services building. Photo by Craig Baxter.

Student demand for financial assistance and foodbank services has soared in Dunedin, with welfare schemes run by student associations at the university and polytechnic being pushed past their financial limits.

Otago University Students' Association welfare officer Shonelle Eastwood said there had been a 64% increase in student demand for foodbank services compared with 2010.

Demand for foodbank help was at a record level last month, and also for the year so far.

"October exceeded our projected demand with 107 students needing the foodbank," MissEastwood said.

OUSA provided 522 food packages to students in 2011, compared with 318 in 2010, she said.

Financial assistance vouchers for supermarkets had also been sent to students based at the university's Christchurch and Wellington campuses - the first time these kinds of requests had been made, Miss Eastwood said.

"Students say they face higher living costs, it's harder to find work, and student allowance and student loan living component adjustments aren't meeting the increased costs students face," she said.

OUSA works on a "no questions asked" policy for those applying to use foodbank services for the first time. Free budget advice is also part of a service for struggling students, she said.

Due to the increase in demand, the budget for the service had been exceeded for the 2011 year, which has forced a review of the situation to ensure the foodbank system remained sustainable next year, Miss Eastwood said.

Otago Polytechnic Students' Association spokesman Mark Baxter said there had been a 20% rise in the number of emergency food grants issued to polytech students so far this year.

"We exceeded our funding for this service earlier this year and have had to have it renewed."

The increase followed on from a corresponding rise in 2010.

OPSA also helped to administer the student assistance fund. Anecdotal reports indicated there had been more applications in 2011 for the emergency financial grant, Mr Baxter said.

Students asking for help had told OPSA there was less casual and part-time work available, while increasing food costs added to hardship.

In addition, OPSA this year had run more subsidised food days, providing cheap lunches and meals at the student centre.


Add a Comment