Lancaster University opens supper club and foodbank for students struggling with cost of living

  • ITV Granada Reports reporter Siham Ali spent a day with university students struggling to cope with the soaring costs of food and essentials.

A university has been forced to put on a supper club and food bank to help students struggling to make ends meet due to the soaring cost of living.

Exclusive figures reveal those living in the North West are "suffering worse" than average, with 31% of students reporting skipping meals to save on food costs.

Almost three quarters, 72%, said they spent less on food, with many going without, while students spent around £12,500 a year on essentials - £1,000 more than the rest of England, excluding London.

The data, from the Sutton Trust, also revealed that 30% of students have reported skipping meals to save on food costs.

The problem is so bad, Lancaster University's student union says it has put in place a supper club and a food bank to ease the burden.

Students at Lancaster University using a food bank. Credit: ITV Granada Reports

It is a take what you need when you need – no questions asked policy – which many say they are thankful for.

The student union says the supper club is the only hot meal some students will have all week.

Josh, 21, is a recent business and economics graduate from the university who says both services were a lifeline for him.

"I've had weeks where I've had to come to the student union to go to the supper club or take food from the pantry because I've been worried about how much I'm spending on my food costs", he said.

"I've found myself at times not necessarily able to afford the most nutritious food – and because of the anxiety of cost I've skipped meals and it's had long term effects."

Lancaster University said it "has significantly increased funding" for students struggling with soaring costs.

Cerys, the student union president fears the services provided might not stand the test of time.

"Every week we see new faces and old faces, some of the same people and the same stories. We just can't keep up with the demand truthfully", she said.

Student union president, Cerys fears the university may struggle to keep up with the demand of the foodbanks. Credit: ITV Granada Reports

Nursing student Paige in Ormskirk, 22, says the financial stress she feels every day has made her question whether she can continue with her studies - despite being in her third year of university.

"It's so difficult – prices are going up and the cost of living is a massive issue but we're expected to continue doing exactly what we were doing", she said.

"To go on a 40-hour a week unpaid placement and manage everything on top of having a part-time job.

"It's hard when you have ambitious dreams but there are barriers in the way – the amount of times I've gone 'is it worth it.

"Maybe people say I overwork but if I don't overwork I can't afford to come to university. My dream is still there but of course I've thought about quitting", she tells us.

Nursing student Paige from Ormskirk says she has financial stresses every day. Credit: ITV Granada Reports

In response to ITV Granada Reports' investigation, Universities UK said: "These are difficult times for many students, especially those from low-income backgrounds.

"Universities have stepped up efforts to alleviate financial pressures during the cost-of-living crisis.

"With inflation still high, it’s imperative that the maintenance support package is reviewed as the recently announced maintenance uplift for next year will not cover the real-terms cut that students are seeing.”

The Sutton Trust said: "Universities in the North West take a lot of students in from the surrounding area and as we know the North West has some of the most deprived areas of the country.

"What we're seeing is students from less well off backgrounds feeling the bite more."

In a statement, the Department of Education said: "To support students further the Office for Students are allocating an additional £10 million to support students who are struggling financially or with their mental health.”

The charity is calling for maintenance grants to be re-introduced to provide support for those who need it most whilst also reducing the debt burden.

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