More students accessing food parcels, associations say

Hard times . . . OUSA student support manager Sage Burke says one or two students access food parcels every day. PHOTOS: GRETA YEOMAN

A growing number of students are accessing food parcels as the cost of living increases, student associations say.

Otago University Students’ Association student support manager Sage Burke said one or two students a day accessed the association’s food parcel programme, which supplies a student with a week’s worth of food.

While most students sought support as a one-off – usually because of an unexpected expense or high power bill – they could access the service up to three times a semester, he said.

Otago Polytechnic Students’ Association welfare officer Kerry Rushton estimated about 10 students a week asked for food parcels from the association, a figure she said had risen.

A report by the New Zealand Union of Students’ Associations (NZUSA), released last week, said average student on food had dropped from $98 to $73 a week since its last income and spending survey in 2014.

However, Mr Burke said he believed student spending was even lower than the report estimated, with some Otago students spending $20-$30 a week on food, which was “very concerning”.

This was connected to the fact spending on accommodation had risen from $193 to $200 a week, while weekly payments for living costs and the student allowance had stayed stagnant at $175, the survey said.

“What students can earn has not kept up with the cost of living,” Mr Burke said.

The cost was even higher in Auckland, where average weekly accommodation costs now exceeded $250, he said.

The NZUSA report estimated that over three years of study, a student borrowing for both their study costs and living costs could rack up more than $50,000 in debt.