Arc’s Food Hub feeding those in need

Food hampers are being delivered and a 24/7 Food Hub Cupboard has been set up to assist disadvantaged students doing it tough in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The financial impact of COVID-19 has been keenly felt across our community and has especially impacted the wellbeing of many UNSW students. Low socioeconomic status (SES) students have experienced increased hardship, our international cohort has been largely deemed ineligible for Federal Government assistance, and research and on-the-ground support from UNSW support staff and financial support applications highlight that many have experienced a reduction or loss of casual employment.

The latest report by the Migrant Worker Justice Initiative As If We Weren’t Humans: The Abandonment of Temporary Migrants in Australia During COVID-19, co-authored by Associate Professor Bassina Farbenblum, Faculty of Law and Director of the UNSW Human Rights Clinic, states: “A July 2020 survey of more than 6,000 international students and visa holders in Australia revealed 70% lost all or most of their work during the pandemic. Thousands have been left unable to pay for food and rent, having been categorically excluded from government wage subsidy schemes. More than half the respondents (57%) believe their financial stress will deepen by year’s end, with one in three international students forecasting their funds will run out by October.”

To support the UNSW student community, Arc has launched Food Hub, available to all UNSW students. Food Hub operates out of Sam Cracknell Pavilion on University Mall every Monday 2-4pm, Wednesday 3-5pm and Friday 11am-1pm, providing up to 200 hampers each day. An International Student Adviser is present at the Wednesday Food Hub to meet with international students, and provide connection and an empathetic ear, as well as advice and support. Tied in with Arc’s wellness initiatives, the Food Hub aims to mitigate any sense of shame that could be experienced by students receiving food.

Hampers are free but ticketed to manage supply and COVID-safe guidelines, though drop-ins are accommodated wherever possible. A typical hamper will contain an assortment of pantry staples plus any available fresh produce. Arc works with local charitable organisations such as Foodbank, OzHarvest, Addi Road Food Pantry and Randwick City Council to source and purchase provisions for the program. Food Hub recently expanded to incorporate Dinner Hub, which distributes 150 pre-made meals for students to reheat. Last week, Arc assisted the UNSW Islamic Student Society (ISOC) distribute 100 food hampers to international students.

“As a domestic student, I have been fortunate to be staying put with my family during these uneasy times. However, for so many international students and students from interstate, the reality is that they don’t have any family or proper support here - the university community is probably the most they have,” said Zaib Javed, member of the ISOC executive team. “So as an organisation on campus helping students with their needs, it felt like a duty of ours to give to the students who rely us so much. I hope with these hamper donations we can ease some of the burdens for these students in these very challenging times.”

In addition to the Food Hub hampers and Dinner Hub, Arc has set-up a 24/7 Food Hub Cupboard at Sam Cracknell Pavilion. This cupboard will be filled with donations from the UNSW community and is available for students to access at any time outside of Food Hub operating hours.

Since commencing operation in the Sam Cracknell Pavilion in the middle of Term 2 (Dinner Hub launched in late Term 2), Food Hub and Dinner Hub have distributed more than 3000 Hampers and 2000 pre-made meals.

The service is primarily accessed by international students, who represent 93% of visits. The service also sees regular return use, with 1062 international students visiting the service twice or more.

The initiative is currently funded by Arc, supported by several successful grant applications through the NSW Government Multicultural Office and Randwick City Council. ISOC food hampers were funded by ISOC and an International Connection Scholarship funded by Medibank and facilitated through the International Student Experience Unit.

Arc has also set up a page for donations to Food Hub and is also taking food donations for the 24/7 Food Cupboard.

Further information regarding Food Hub can be found on the Arc website.