York’s Hidden Hunger Shame: Students turn to food banks to eat

10668667_852817788064438_8783304036833325186_oDesperate students at York are turning to food banks to eat after going hungry, a York Vision investigation can reveal.

According to figures by the Trussell Trust, the main parcel provider in York, more than 1,300 people in the largest student wards around the university have accessed one of the four centres open since June 2012.

The charity does not know specifically how many students have been to one and cannot estimate but the wards with the largest student housing population recorded a significantly larger number of handouts.

In the Hull Road ward, where one in six houses are occupied by students, 451 people have accessed a bank in the last 28 months, while in the Heworth ward, which covers Tang Hall, 694 people have accessed one.

In Fishergate, Osbaldwick and Fulford, 156, 62 and 26 people respectively have visited a bank. The fewest recorded visits were in the Heslington ward, where 5 people visited a bank.

More than one in six people who have been to a food bank in York have been under the age of 25. Rising costs of living and delayed loans could be behind students visiting them, recent research suggests.

One student, who does not wish to be named, told York Vision they accessed a food bank in desperation. “I saw it as my only option at the time, so I went,” they said.

“I can’t say loads of people do it but it’s not something you want to tell everyone about, so who really knows.”

A spokeswoman for the Trussell Trust York Foodbank said “occasionally” some students did come.

She added that those student areas were populated by people living in social housing, who were the most likely to come to the bank.

“I don’t think that Foodbank is naturally where they would come for help, perhaps the universities provide advice and support as their first point of call,” they said.

The Student Support Hub, the key place for those with financial worries, has help in place for undergraduates and postgraduates who fall on hard times.

York Vision understands that officials have referred students to professionals who can help refer them to a food bank.

A spokesperson did not respond to a request for comment, but their website says its two financial schemes – an emergency loan and Hardship Fund – is available for students.

Of its emergency loan, it says: “We can only offer emergency loans in very limited circumstances. Most particularly, when home undergraduate or nursing students’ funding is delayed.”

And of its Hardship Fund, it adds: “If you find yourself in unexpected financial hardship at any point in the academic year you should consider applying to our Hardship Funds.”

Jemima Busby, the YUSU Welfare and Community Officer, said students should seek help from the Student Support Hub if they need to.

“It’s concerning to hear that any student has had to use a food bank,” she said.

“It’s important to note that the University provides a lot of help for students struggling financially. Anyone who finds themselves in such a situation should get an appointment from the Student Support Hub, who will put them in touch with the University’s financial support unit which provides budgeting advice and hardship loans for those in need.”

The news comes after leaders of the National Union of Students made a statement in April insisting growing numbers of students were turning to food banks to eat.

One institution, Hull University, reported a doubling of parcel claimants, with 200 students needing assistance, up from 100 in 2013.

A University of York spokesman said: “We are aware of University of York students volunteering in the four food banks, but we are not aware of students attending them as users.

“If any student finds him or herself in dire straits and unable to afford basic provisions, they can apply to the student hardship fund managed by Student Support Services.”

Students who access food banks have to be referred by a professional such as a counsellor or doctor.

Support by the university includes the ones mentioned in this article, including the Hardship Fund and emergency loans.

Why I turned to food banks:

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.

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 – I had obviously lost quite a bit of weight and my studies had dipped. I was forced to take a year out.

The truth is, the university was pretty powerless. Yes, I managed to get a bit of money from their hardship, and they ‘chatted’ to me a few times but they always judged my bank statements or told me to get a part-time job.

In the end, I stopped asking for help from the uni as it got embarrassing.

3 thoughts on “York’s Hidden Hunger Shame: Students turn to food banks to eat

  1. To be honest I also find the university pretty useless when it comes to financial help.
    I once asked them to extend my accommodation deadline by one month because money from a job I did over summer hadn’t been paid. The uni pretty much told me that they cannot extend the deadline and that I have to get the money somehow, if I don’t they would hand me over to a debt-collection agency. Just quite amusing given that one of the first points in their financial help booklet at the time was to go and talk to landlords about extending the rent deadline…

  2. Sorry to hear of your experience. You can always get advice from the Student Support Hub in Market Square. Did you not ask their advice on paying for accommodation? Its a free service to all students and the Welfare advisers there are accredited and specialists in their field. Talk to them if you have any more difficulties.

  3. Hahahahahahahaha. Thank God I am not a student at York anymore. It was an awful experience, but one that I can now laugh at. I’m raking in the money now. York University played no part in my current success, least of all the welfare department….

Comments are closed.