Anti-poverty drive after Vision reports on “Hidden Hunger Shame” scandal

A STUDENT at the University of York is starting a food poverty campaign, based on and around campus, after reading Vision’s front page splash (“York’s Hidden Hunger Shame”) last edition.

Sarah Stanley’s campaign is called ‘Beyond a tin of food’, and it is aimed at helping end food poverty in York.

York Vision uncovered in our last edition that more than 1,300 people in the largest student wards around the university have accessed one of the four centres open since June 2012. These figures came from the Trussell Trust, the main parcel provider in the UK.

One student, who accessed a food bank, said: “I was first advised to visit a food bank a year ago.

“I had just signed for a house and, despite putting down an extortionate deposit on an incredibly cheap rent, I had to make a whopping 1.5k payment for rent over the summer in Term 3 – which obviously left me seriously out of pocket.

“I don’t actually have any parents to fall back on, and my student loan ran out, so I naturally tried to extend my already 2k overdraft. I was refused.”

They added: “Naturally, I had to make changes to my budget and the food had to go. I was actually advised by my doctor to visit a food bank after I was begged by a friend to visit him.”

Toni Pearce, the leader of the National Union of Students (NUS) and Natalie Bennett, the leader of the Green Party were both shocked and moved by the story.

Pearce said: “[This is a] really good article about York students turning to food banks. What an absolute disgrace.”

Bennett mentioned the front-page article in her speech during week 2 at the university, saying: “I’ve just read in one of your papers how more and more students have turned to food banks.”

Sarah’s campaign is being run through TeamV, which is a Youth Leading program. She will be the only Leader of such a campaign based in York, but there are many similar schemes around the country.

She said: “What I would really like to do is to look at students who have to turn to food banks, and see if it’s a common problem in York. We’ve linked up with Trussel Trust, which is a group of food banks across the UK and also Oxfam.”

She is aiming to raise awareness around the Trussel Trust Food Bank in York, and to spur students who are able to into participating in food collection.

The student highlighted that food banks are not a permanent solution: “The real issue is that food banks aren’t a long term solution – they only give 3 days emergency food at a time and you have to be referred to them to get a package – its not like a soup kitchen where you can just turn up if you need.

“Really it’s about letting people know that there’s a deeper problem which means more and more people have to turn to food banks in the first place.”

Sarah stressed that students should get involved in the campaign.

“Events-wise I’m hoping to be putting food collection bins around uni so people can donate, and holding an awareness event hopefully getting Oxfam involved and having external speakers.”

For help during desperate times, see the Student Support Hub.