Student Food Banks in Sheffield: A Lifeline for Students in Need

Utilization of food banks among students in Sheffield has seen a significant rise and highlighting the pressing issue of student poverty and financial insecurity

In recent years, the utilization of food banks among students in Sheffield has seen a significant rise. This surge reflects a broader trend across the UK, highlighting the pressing issue of student poverty and financial insecurity. In this post, we delve into the reasons behind this increase and explore the avenues available for students to access essential support.

What are food banks?

A food bank helps people in crisis by providing non-perishable food and vouchers. It’s run by volunteers as a non-profit charity. In the past 5 years, the need for food banks in the UK has gone up by 81%, showing more people depend on them.

Who can use food banks?

Food banks are for anyone who needs them, like people with low incomes, unemployed individuals, and financially struggling students. Usually, you need a referral to use a local food bank, which you can get by contacting Citizens Advice. You can also reach out directly to a food bank or talk to a counsellor or GP to request a referral. Whoever you speak with will ask you questions to understand why you need support and what help is available to you.

Why has the use of food banks among students increased?

Financial strains, coupled with the rising cost of living and tuition fees, have pushed many students into precarious financial situations. Here are some factors contributing to the heightened reliance on food banks among students:

  1. Rising Living Costs: The escalating costs of accommodation, utilities, and groceries have outpaced increases in student loans and grants, leaving many students struggling to make ends meet.
  2. Inadequate Financial Support: For some students, financial aid packages and part-time work may not suffice to cover basic living expenses, forcing them to seek alternative sources of support.
  3. Unforeseen Expenses: Unexpected emergencies, such as health-related bills or sudden job loss, can exacerbate financial instability among students, making it difficult to afford daily essentials like food.

Is the situation really that dire?

A recent BBC News report highlighted the struggle students are facing.

According to a University of Lancaster student union leader, students affected by the cost-of-living crisis are unable to afford food for up to three days. She described the situation as “desperate” and highlighted the strain on students, with some reaching “breaking point.” A campus “supper club” distributed 500 meals in three weeks to address the issue.

They emphasized the anxiety among students regarding their ability to afford basic necessities like food and heating. The student union, facing overwhelming demand, struggled to keep up with the need for its on-campus food bank.

She highlighted challenges with the current student funding system, which heavily relies on parental contributions, but many parents are also struggling due to rising living costs and economic challenges.

They further shared these concerns on BBC Question Time, emphasizing the urgency of the situation by noting that students are unable to study because they haven’t eaten in days.

How do food banks work?

Food banks operate by providing individuals with a food voucher that can be exchanged for a food parcel containing enough supplies for three days, including basic toiletries like deodorant or toothpaste. To redeem the voucher, you typically need to visit your local food bank in person.

When you’re referred to a food bank, you receive a voucher which you can exchange at the designated time or day. This voucher allows you to collect a food parcel from the food bank, ensuring you have emergency food for three days. Volunteers at the food bank can also address any allergy concerns you may have.

After using your food voucher, you’ll need a new referral for subsequent visits to the food bank. If you anticipate needing regular assistance, you can discuss this with your advisor, who can refer you again if necessary. While some food banks may have usage limits, having a referral generally allows for multiple visits. Food banks aim to support those in need, making assistance available whenever necessary.

In some cases, food banks, particularly those operated by churches, may not require a referral and are open to all. You can explore local options through directories or online resources. However, for most food banks, a referral is necessary. If you’re unsure, you can seek guidance from free advisors at organizations like Citizens Advice or The Trussell Group.

Where can you find access to food banks?

Sheffield University Hardship Fund

Sheffield University offers a Hardship Fund designed to assist students facing financial difficulties. The fund provides grants to eligible students, including those experiencing short-term financial crises or unexpected expenses. Students can apply through the university’s Student Support Services for assistance with food, accommodation, and other essential needs.

Sheffield Hallam University Hardship Fund

Similarly, Sheffield Hallam University operates a Hardship Fund to support students experiencing financial hardship. The fund offers grants and emergency loans to eligible students, enabling them to address immediate financial challenges, including access to food and other essentials. Students can seek guidance from the Student Financial Support team to explore available resources and assistance options.

Referral from an Agency for Food Banks

Students in need of food assistance can also access food banks through referrals from various agencies and support organizations in Sheffield. These agencies work closely with local food banks to ensure that individuals facing food insecurity receive timely support. Students can reach out to student welfare services, community outreach programs, or housing associations for assistance and guidance on accessing food bank services.

For more information on food banks in Sheffield visit

Utilizing Apps like Olio and Good2Go

In addition to traditional food bank services, students can leverage innovative mobile apps such as Olio and Good2Go to access free food and reduce food waste within their communities. Olio, a mobile app dedicated to sharing surplus food and household items, connects users with nearby neighbours offering free food items or groceries. Similarly, Good2Go facilitates the redistribution of surplus food from local businesses and supermarkets to individuals in need, including students facing financial hardship.

Is it a long-term solution?

The increasing prevalence of food banks among students in Sheffield underscores the urgent need for comprehensive support systems to address student poverty and financial insecurity. By leveraging available resources such as university hardship funds, referral services, and mobile apps, students can access vital assistance and alleviate the burden of food insecurity during challenging times.

Food banks are not designed to be a long-term solution to address food poverty but are available as a safety net for those who are in desperate need. More information can be found at the following sources

About Thornsett Properties

Thornsett Properties has been providing student apartments and accommodation in Sheffield since 1985. Catering to over 650 students studying at Sheffield Uni and Sheffield Hallam Uni every year. As property owners, Thornsett Properties manages all properties directly, ensuring quality living experiences without relying on third parties. Our goal is to support students’ success while living and studying in Sheffield student accommodation.

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