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University of East Anglia introduces food banks to combat student poverty

The University of East Anglia starts food bank to help students in need as number of students in poverty continues to rise

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The University of East Anglia Students’ Union has launched a food bank programme in response to the rising problem of student poverty. It is part of a wider ‘Cost of Living’ campaign to give students “the time and money to get as much as they can from their education.”

The initiative, called FoodbankSU, uses money and food donated to the shop on campus with the proceeds being split between the student food bank and further banks in the Norwich area. Students in need are required to first meet with the dean of students to discuss their situation and will then receive a food token. UEASU plan a campaign for later in the year to increase the stock in the food bank, as well as raising awareness.

Liam McCafferty, a postgraduate education officer at the university, outlined the situation. Speaking to The Independent, he said: “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.”

Whilst the UEASU are the latest to act, it seems student poverty is rapidly becoming a more prominent issue. In January this year, the New Policy Institute published a report to highlight some serious issues. It showed that there were 440,000 students at the time living in poverty, some 25 per cent of all young people in poverty in the UK.

Back in April 2014, concerns were already being discussed. Then-Vice-President of the NUS Colum McGuire, speaking to The Independent, stressed the severity of the situation. He said “People are struggling… our members report that they have to provide food parcels to students who literally cannot afford to eat.”

Furthermore, a recent study reinforced the view that finance and diet was an issue for the majority of students. The 2015 National Student Money Survey showed 80 per cent of students ‘worried about making ends meet’ and a further 63 per cent were of the view that this affected their diet.

Students using food banks is unfortunately not a new occurrence. Last year, Manchester Central Foodbank reported an increase in the number of student users of the service. The University of Hull Students’ Union also reported an increase in students using food banks last year, with numbers doubling.

The foodbank launched on the 13th of November and the campaign is due to continue  throughout the rest of the academic year.