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Textbooks or food? Union launches foodbank to tackle student poverty

The Union of UEA Students (UUEAS) has launched a foodbank, as a way to tackle student poverty at UEA. The launch took place last week coincided with a report, which indicated that nearly a quarter of all students are having to choose between buying textbooks and food as they cannot afford both.

The initiative, branded ‘FoodbankSU’, will be open to all students, with donations being shared with other foodbanks in Norwich and the wider Norfolk area. In order to use the service, students will need to book an appointment with a welfare adviser, where they will receive a token which can then be exchanged for a food parcel.

The launch of FoodbankSU comes in the wake of the government’s decision to cut maintenance grants, and following reports that the student use of food banks has dramatically increased, with some institutions reporting a 100% increase in their use.

Furthermore, in the same week as the launch of FoodbankSU, results from of a report written by Student Money Survey stated that 24% of students have admitted to having cut back on textbooks to have more money to spend on food.

According to the Student Money Survey around 80% of students constantly worry about money, with 46% saying it has a negative impact on their studies and 56% it has a bad effect on their diet. The study also reveals many students have less than £15 a week to spend on food. Speaking to Concrete, several students at UEA claimed that they have to virtually starve themselves to make food supplies last a week.

The survey concluded that students were short of, on average, £277 each month. Along with being forced to skip meals, the survey indicated that students occasionally go without medicine, heating and are unable to travel home in order to visit their families, due to the high costs involved.

The union have said that they “know that students are struggling here and now with bills, rent and food costs. That’s why we’re launching FoodbankSU”.

Liam McCafferty, UUEAS postgraduate education officer has gone further and argued that the foodbank alone will not be enough to help students: “It’s important to recognise that, despite the importance of foodbanks, FoodbankSU is not a solution to student poverty. Cuts to maintenance grants, excessive rents, sky-high tuition fees and unfair costs are just among some of the root causes that UUEAS will continue to fight against”.

However, despite these claims by the students’ union, nutrionist Dr Rosland Miller from the British Nutrition Foundation has insisted it is possible for students on a tight budget to eat healthily: “a healthy diet does not mean that you need to buy expensive foods, but an understanding of food budgeting and good nutrition can help”.

She also argued: “It is important to eat a healthy, varied diet whatever your age and whatever your income”.

Anyone wishing to donate money or food to the service should speak to the Shop.


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August 2021
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The University of East Anglia’s official student newspaper. Concrete is in print and online.

If you would like to get in touch, email the Editor on Concrete.Editor@uea.ac.uk. Follow us at @ConcreteUEA.