Crisis at the Foodbank

The empty shelves of the QUT Student Guild Foodbank after running out of stock due to the large number of students accessing the service daily. (Supplied/Celeste Muller

Updated 5:58pm 23 March 2023

The QUT Student Guild Foodbank is facing serious concerns after seeing an unprecedented influx of students in the first three weeks of the semester.  

The Foodbank has already assisted nearly 1,000 students in need and provided over $10,000 worth of grocery items this calendar year.

On average, it has had around 80 visitors per week during the semester in 2023, which is an increase of over 60 students per week from Semester 2 2022. On Tuesday 21 March alone, around 110 students visited the Foodbank.

The total budget for food relief for 2023 is $100,000.  

Currently, it costs an average of $2,500 to fill the Foodbank with groceries each week, supplying around 120 students with food, which is unsustainable given the high number of students accessing the service per day.  

For the Foodbank to continue operating throughout the remainder of the year, this amount will need to be decreased to $1,900 which is only enough to supply around 90 students with food.

QUT Student Guild Welfare Officer Jack Longwill said many students are struggling to support themselves and are forced to rely on services like the Foodbank. 

“To put it simply, students are suffering,” said Longwill. 

“One of the common things I’ve heard is just how confusing [support services] can be to navigate, and be able to find…especially whilst dealing with the stress of just being a university student.” 

International students have been the primary users of this service, which opens up questions about whether these students are financially struggling at a higher rate than domestic students and whether the university is doing enough to help them. 

“They receive no government support, and in a cost-of-living crisis, many have no choice but to rely on services like our Foodbank,” said Longwill. 

Due to the increased need and the time it takes to manage the Foodbank, the Student Guild has been forced to change its operations in order to keep the service running.  

At this stage, the operating hours have been reduced to 10am till 2pm Tuesday to Thursday, and they are prioritising stocking essentials like rice and milk.  

The Student Guild is also considering introducing “meal bags”, where a bag would contain a recipe and the ingredients necessary to cook that recipe.  

The Student Guild considered the possibility of charging students a small fee to access the service, which is a financing method some other university foodbanks use and a way to disincentivise abuse of the system.  

However, Longwill confirmed the Student Guild has no plans to implement a fee. 

“Especially in the current cost-of-living crisis, it simply makes no sense to me. Students are already hurting enough in this without us moving to punish those who simply don’t have anything.” 

Currently, the Foodbank only has enough supplies to remain operational for one and a half days per week, which means students who are not able to access the service early in the week have been forced to miss out.  

“It breaks my heart that we have frequently had to close the Foodbank early or refuse access because we have simply run out of food, and I really appreciate how understanding the majority of students have been to our current circumstances,” said Longwill. 

Any current QUT student can access the Foodbank once per fortnight, and get up to 10 items from the pantry. However, please be mindful that the service was specifically designed as a temporary assistance program for students who are struggling financially and would go without if they are not able to access the Foodbank. 

If you are struggling or need support, please do not hesitate to contact the Welfare Officer at welfare@qutguild.com

Celeste Muller
Celeste Muller

Celeste (she/her) is a Meanjin/Brisbane based writer and Editor at Glass Media. She has a Bachelor's degree in Design (Interior Design) and is currently studying Journalism and Economics at QUT.

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