Lockdown has forced unis to close their student foodbanks
‘We’re just trying to do our very best to support students the best way we can’
Coronavirus is forcing universities to close their student foodbanks, as students around the country feel the financial pressure of lockdown.
Student foodbanks at Birmingham and Leeds Beckett have had to close, as lockdown has pushed unis and SUs to close buildings and furlough staff.
Leeds Beckett’s SU opened a foodbank on its city centre campus shortly before the coronavirus crisis. It was only running for two to three weeks before it had to shut down. “We haven’t had the staffing capacity as lots of staff have been put on furlough,” Craig Cox of Leeds Beckett SU told The Tab.
The foodbank operated on a trust system where students could take the items they needed, and so it’s difficult to say how many are missing out on the service.
The use of foodbanks at universities is commonplace, say Universities UK and the NUS. UUK’s president Julie Buckingham last month told a House of Commons Committee the “practice is actually quite widespread across the sector.”
Zamzam Ibrahim, the NUS president, told the petitions committee: “A lot of universities and student unions locally have worked together very well to set up foodbanks on campuses.”
However, at Kent, the otherwise-closed SU building has been reopening specifically to allow the foodbank to keep helping students.
“A lot of students are suffering from financial hardships. We’re having a lot of discussions about the impact of coronavirus – one of the things that’s important to highlight is that it’s very important for universities to do their best to support students,” says Omolade Adedapo, Vice President of Kent SU.
“We’ve kept the scheme open throughout this entire period. We’ve supported about 35 students since the lockdown,” says Omolade.
Other buildings on campus are closed, but the uni has managed to find a way to keep the foodbank – in the Mandela Student Centre – open. “We only kept it open for the foodbank on a Wednesday,” says Omolade.
Running the foodbank with social distancing in place hasn’t been too bad, Omolade tells The Tab. Keeping distance between volunteers works well, and the system is already well suited to leaving students alone in the room to take what they need.
The bank is currently seeking donations of non-perishables such as rice, pasta, and cereal.
“We’re just trying to do our very best to support students the best way we can. One of the great things we have is the foodbank, and the fact we can still keep that open.”
At Birmingham, a student-run group has filled the gap opened up by the closure of the Guild-run bank, providing the community and those still in Selly Oak with food.
Beckett is planning to reopen its foodbank as a delivery service when possible, however Craig says there’s the “question of whether it’s ethical” to send staff out to different locations.