‘We don’t feel overly supported’: Students on university cost of living assistance

We interviewed students at Sultan’s free food event

On the 29th February, Sultan’s of Lancaster gave out free food to 4897 Lancaster University students, after learning that students struggle with affording to buy food.

The workers of the restaurant decided to implement this event following LUSU President Cerys Evans’ comment on BBC Question Time about how many students don’t eat for days.

With this in mind, we took to the queue outside Sultan’s to ask for student’s opinions on whether they feel the university is supporting them in light of the cost of living crisis, what else the university could do, and whether Sultan’s providing free food made them feel more supported.

‘We don’t feel overly supported’

When asked if they feel supported by the university in the cost of living crisis, students said they didn’t feel the support from the uni was enough. While they mentioned they recognise LUSU does its best with Supper Club and the pantry, the students we interviewed felt the support wasn’t made obvious enough. A student joked that if you “wanted to buy something from Spar, you have to take out a mortgage to pay for it”, demonstrating that students have to plan for further expenses like buying a quick snack on campus.

One student said they hadn’t heard about the support the university was offering, and if a friend came to them struggling with financial issues, they wouldn’t be able to signpost them to any support. The students we interviewed agreed the uni could do more to signpost the support they’re able to offer.

‘There should be more free meal options’

Students expressed their appreciation for Sultan’s showing putting on this event, and indicated they’d noticed the cost of food in the supermarkets had risen. Including costs of parking, or bus fares, students mentioned there were many other costs that they had to take into account.

One person mentioned the meal boxes distributed by EcoEats at the beginning of the academic year, indicating it was a “good initiative”, but they’d noticed they “haven’t really been doing it” since.

‘[Sultan’s free food initiative] definitely made me feel more supported’

Sultan’s has a big student customer base, and could continue to profit from us. Students expressed that it was amazing, and they felt like “because we spend a lot of time [at Sultan’s], especially on nights out, we put a lot into their business and I feel like doing the odd free thing is quite nice”. This conveys despite feeling like the university’s support isn’t adequate enough, those who are offering support are appreciated by the student body.

A spokesperson for LUSU said: “The Supper Club and Pantry are extremely well-attended, and word is spreading all the time by word of mouth and through the Union’s channels. We have also increased the signage in and around the Union to let students know what we’re doing as well as posting information online. Of course we’re grateful for any additional publicity and hope that The Tab will spread the word even further.

“Students seeking support with the cost of living can find help at The Pantry in the SU reception and at Supper Club every Thursday at 6pm. We also have staff and volunteers on hand to give advice about other ways the SU can help.
“Students can also access the online Wellbeing Hub at https://your.lancastersu.co.uk/wellbeing. Here they can get information about all the Union and University support that we are aware of and it is constantly updated.”

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