Anger and embarrassment as students turn to Foodbank
At the Manchester Central Food Bank – one of the largest in the UK and the first to be run by students – staff are worried by the number of students using the facility.” It'd be ironic if it wasn't so depressing,” says volunteer Alexander Bulcock. “Since the beginning of the year, roughly 21 emergency food vouchers have been received by the food bank from students across Manchester. While this is a small portion of the overall volume of users at the food bank, it's a demographic that hasn't been seen before.”
Father Tim Byron SJ, one of the Jesuit priests at the chaplaincy that houses Manchester Central Food Bank, noticed the trend first hand. "We realised that there were a lot of people, especially students, who were given vouchers but were too embarrassed to come in," he says. "I approached the student's advice centre and told them that they could contact me by phone and access us out of hours. Even at nine o’clock in the evening, I'd still let them in. Some come through the back because, even late at night, they don't want to be seen."
Ronan is a volunteer at the food bank who feels passionately about this developing situation. "Yes, students have always been traditionally 'skint'," he says, "but the failure to protect them from rocketing rent, food prices and energy bills has resulted in the future professionals of this country living in poverty. We're regressing as a society, we're going back in time. We have the means to eradicate poverty, so why haven't we?"
Ronan's anger is shared by Rebecca, another regular volunteer. "I think it's a combination of higher tuition fees and a rise in living cost which has meant more students are forced to turn to food banks for urgent support. It goes to show that the economic crisis has had an impact on all levels of society, from students to pensioners."
“The situation in Manchester can be looked at in two ways,” says Alexander Bulcock. “That students are having to eat food donated to a food bank by other students is bleak as hell, but it's heartening that so many students want to see change happening and aren't just sitting on their arses waiting for someone to come and do it for them – they're actually coming to help out. In our first operational year, we have fed just over 2000 people.”