UCC’s Student Union scooped a national award on Thursday evening, for their food bank which helped Cork students make ends meet this year amidst the spiralling cost of living.
At the Student Achievement Awards Ireland, the USI (Union of Students in Ireland) named the UCCSU food bank as Access Champion of the Year.
The award recognises those who go “above and beyond to defend the right to access to third level education”, through work which highlights barriers to accessing and funding Higher Education, and helps students overcome them.
In October of last year, UCC Student Union were forced to reopen the food bank which hadn’t operated since 2019, due to demands from students struggling to keep up with fees, rent, and living expenses.
The food bank made national headlines when it ran out of food after only 50 minutes, as more than 100 students came to avail of the service.
In the wake of publicity, UCC Student Union Welfare Officer Caoimhe Walsh said that the food bank “took off”, as they set up a GoFundMe which quickly raised over €25,000 in donations.
The boost from donations allowed the SU to go above and beyond the weekly food bank service that had been provided in previous years.
She said the food bank remained in high demand throughout the academic year, supporting an average of 60 students per week.
“Some students have to decide whether they’re going to pay their fees, or their rent, or for food, because they just can’t pay for it all – so when we have the food bank in place it’s great for people who need that option,” said Ms Walsh.
She said that the food bank will definitely be continuing for the next academic year, and depending on demand, could also be kept in operation over the summer months.
“We’re more than happy that we’re able to do this for students, but we shouldn’t have to have a food bank. Students should be able to afford basics, the cost of living shouldn’t be so high that students actually can’t even afford it,” she said.