A GoFundMe page set up by University College Cork Student's Union (UCCSU) to raise funds for their foodbank after it ran out of products in just 50 minutes on Wednesday has raised over €15,000 in less than twenty four hours.
UCCSU welfare officer Caoimhe Walsh said that over 100 students were facilitated before then they ran out of food yesterday. They give out non perishable items such as pasta, rice tinned foods and sauces in addition to hygiene products.
Ms Walsh says it was “so upsetting” to turn needy students away. She stresses that students have indicated that once they have paid off their accommodation they find themselves low on funds to get them through the month.
“There are a lot of students who come to me who really can’t afford food and that is very sad. They are spending all of their money on bills, fees and college accommodation and a lot of students just don’t have the money for food. Many students wouldn’t want to ask their parents for even more money.
“Students were going in to Penny Dinners (a soup kitchen) and St Vincent De Paul and they are now coming to us. We have been blown away by the support though (since the issue was publicised on social media). People are very generous.
“Caitriona Twomey from Cork Penny Dinners dropped food to us yesterday and we had students, staff members and local businesses coming in with food.”
The food bank was last in place in 2019. However, Ms Walsh says far fewer students turned up looking for food two years ago.
“Large numbers of students have part time jobs but are not making enough money to survive,” she says.
She refutes suggestions that students have plenty of money for alcohol and then claim food poverty.
“The students who came here yesterday are not the ones out partying. We are receiving donations since 10am so I will meet students who missed out yesterday. We are delighted with the response (on GoFundMe).
Meanwhile, Maeve Richardson, communications officer with UCCSU, warns that there are “students starving in UCC and all over Ireland”.
“This is the reality of having the highest college fees in the EU and increasing rents. With the rents we have, we need either a rent freeze or a rent reduction on this island. No student can fully support themselves with a part time job.”
She stresses that the majority of students who go to the foodbank have part time work and are doing everything in their power to pay for their study.
Caitriona Twomey of Cork Penny Dinners soup kitchen backs the claims of Ms Richardson and says she has never seen such poverty among students.
In an interview with the Opinion Line, on Cork’s 96FM, Ms Twomey said that students are presenting to their charity in large numbers for food.
“UCC are addressing it and Caoimhe is doing an amazing job. I just don’t think anybody could have been prepared for yesterday. They have regrouped and have more plans. UCC have to be commended because they are rallying around.
“Caoimhe has highlighted the high cost of rents. Students are doing everything and anything to keep themselves in college. They are trying to study around lectures and work.
“The assistance grant needs to be increased. We need to look at the high cost of rent. College can stretch a family way beyond their limits.
“The students don’t want to be saying they don’t have enough to eat because their families are already strapped. This is not unique to UCC. It is not because they are not budgeting properly. They may not have the money to budget with.”
Ms Twomey added that people who want to go to college should receive every assistance from the State.
“Years ago college would have been off limits for a large numbers of families. It isn’t now. But things have crashed down around a lot of people for a number of reasons. They need the help now,” she said.
“We have students who volunteer in Penny Dinners. They give what they can and of their time. Sometimes we end up feeding them. Having them work on an empty stomach isn’t right. We see what people don’t see. We feed the ones who are hungry.”
Donations can be made to the UCC foodbank GoFundMe at https://twitter.com/uccsuengagement/status/1445872583799361537?s=21