The scenes at UCC, where a food bank set up to help struggling students ran out of supplies in under an hour, shines “a strong light on the reality of student poverty”, a Cork TD has said.
The food bank, set up by the university’s students’ union (SU) to assist students who cannot afford to feed themselves after they have paid for accommodation and bills, ran out of food in just 50 minutes yesterday evening.
50 minutes in we’ve run out of food and have had to turn students away. Heartbreaking to not have enough and to see so many students experiencing food insecurity. Is this the @UCC and country we are supposed to be proud of? @SimonHarrisTD https://t.co/dpGdOrZCnm— Asha Woodhouse (@UCCSUPresident) October 6, 2021
Cork North Central TD Mick Barry congratulated the students' union for setting up the food bank, describing it as “an act of solidarity not an act of charity”.
He said it has “shone a strong light on the reality of student poverty”, adding:
“The people who are looking bad in this light are not the students but the Government Ministers who have failed to act on high rents and high fees.”
Raising the issue in the Dáil this afternoon, the Solidarity TD told the Tánaiste Leo Varadkar that he and his Cabinet colleagues should be ashamed at the scenes at UCC last night.
“How could it be otherwise when we have the highest student fees in all of the European Union and we have students forking out €700 and more per month just for a box room?
“Scenes at UCC yesterday when 131 students queued at the student union food bank should cause you and your Cabinet colleagues to blush if you had any shame,” he said.
Questioning the Tánaiste, Mr Barry asked:
“What are you going to do about the crazy rents that are being imposed on students and the crazy fees that are on their backs too?”
Mr Varadkar said he wished to acknowledge the fact that many students are struggling financially.
He said the main way the Government assists students is through the student grant system.
“Over 75,000 students receiving a grant and of course the grant levels are under review in the context of the Budget for next year but in recognition that some students are facing real hardship and serious hardship, the Minister for Higher Education, Minister Harris, has doubled the Student Assistance Fund to €17.2 million and has allocated today, or at least in the last couple of days, €596,000 of that to UCC to assist them to assist students who are in real financial need,” he said.
The UCC SU bank provides non-perishable items including pasta, rice, and sauces to students every Wednesday in UCC’s Common Room, between 5pm and 7pm.
UCC Students’ Union has set up a GoFundMe for those looking to assist them to raise funds to purchase supplies for its food bank.