Foodbank set up at a Leeds university because students can't afford to pay rent

A LEEDS university has opened a foodbank to offer support to who admitted struggling to afford food because of rising rent prices.

Monday, 24th February 2020, 11:45 am

The Give or Take foodbank scheme opened last week and is run by the Leeds Beckett University’s Students’ Union and volunteers.

Charlie Hind, union affairs officer, told the YEP how some students were struggling because they had to pay up to 80 per cent of their outgoings on rent. He said: “We set up this foodbank because unfortunately this is something that is becoming needed these days.

“We are seeing a lot of students that are having to pay up to 80 per cent or sometimes more on rent.

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Student volunteers Menna Wahab (left) and Matthew Morris stocking up the student foodbank near to The Hive at Leeds Beckett University.

“When we opened we almost didn’t want to celebrate because it’s a bad thing.

“Hopefully in a few years time we can close down the food bank because the students won’t need it anymore.”

The foodbank opens its doors as the Students’ Union is also encouraging students to open up about their financial situations.

Affect on education

The sign outside the student foodbank near to The Hive at Leeds Beckett University.

Money worries can have a negative affect on a student’s success, the union says, and could put them at a disadvantage academically, as well as financially.

Megan Heeney, a second-year student at the university, said: “I find myself becoming very paranoid about budgeting for food and constantly counting everything I am spending.

“I know a few people who have ended up in a bad financial state because it can be very overwhelming. It can affect your work if you are worrying about money.”

The foodbank is currently staffed by volunteers and attached to the university’s ‘eco’ soup kitchen.

Lyndon Wallace, student group-cordinator and Eleanor Claxton, a student volunteer with food in the student foodbank near to The Hive at Leeds Beckett University.

Organiser Lyndon Wallace said: “We don’t have a way of policing our food bank, it is run by volunteers and tied to our eco-soup kitchen which aims provide healthy, vegan meals to anyone who needs it.

“We have found that when it is pay as you feel people are usually generous, although we have had a few students who just really need a meal so we offer it for free.

“We are trying to show that it is okay to ask for help but breaking down the stigma is the hardest part.”

Rise in foodbank use

Its opening comes after the YEP previously reported how there has been a surge in the number of people accessing foodbanks across the city of Leeds.

Sherry Iqbal, the union’s education officer, said: “This foodbank is incredibly important. Students have paid a lot of money to come to university and by not being able to afford to live it is going to impact their ability to focus in lectures. It can massively impact your studies if you are not eating the right kind of food or if you are not eating at all.”

Factfile

‘We will work with union to meet needs of students’

The Give or Take foodbank is open every Wednesday and Friday between noon and 2pm at the Leeds Beckett City campus.

A spokesperson for Leeds Beckett University said: “We recognise that from time to time students can face financial challenges. We will continue to work with the Student Union to meet the needs of our diverse student population.”

Between April 1 and September 30 last year 823,145 three day emergency food supplies were provided to people in crisis by the Trussell Trust and during this period 47,722 were provided to people in Yorkshire and the Humber. A voucher is needed to qualify for a Trussell Trust food bank which can be issued by health workers and organisations such as Citizens Advice.

Independently-run food banks outline their own requirements.

The foodbank at Leeds Beckett is open to everyone.