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Hungry Students Overwhelm Food Bank

Hungry Students Overwhelm Food Bank

The Otago University Students’ Association has had a record October and a record year for Food Bank use.

“October exceeded our projected demand with 107 students needing the Food Bank”, said the OUSA Welfare Officer Shonelle Eastwood. “There has been a 64% increase in use in 2011 with 522 cases, compared to 318 in 2010.”

“It’s also the first year we’ve had to send financial assistance packages to distance students who have requested help at our Canterbury and Wellington campuses.” Said Ms. Eastwood. ”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 that students face.”

OUSA currently works on a no questions asked policy for a student using the food bank for the first time, and offers free budgeting advice as well as offering cheap meal plans and recipes to help students who are struggling.

“The increases in rent, food prices, and electricity, are not met by increases in the Allowance or access to the $169.51 Living Component of the Student Loan”, said Ms Eastwood.

“Even the most budget cautious and conscientious students struggle to make the numbers work. The average rent in Dunedin is $110, power of $15, insurance of $5, phone and internet around $5, general flat gear and food of at least $40 then students are left with a deficit of about $5 a week”, Ms. Eastwood said.

“We know students want to work and will work when there are jobs. One positive element in the picture is that Student Job Search has connected students to more jobs this year, increasing worker hours from last year’s low point by some 11%. But there are still more students wanting work than there are jobs.” Said Ms. Eastwood.

Due to the increase in demand the budget for the service has been exceeded for the 2011 year. The OUSA is reviewing the food bank system so it can remain sustainable in 2012.

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