High rents, the high cost of living and the unreliable nature of temporary and casual work, as well as job losses due to COVID-19 restrictions and closures, have made balancing the budget challenging for many students.
“The provision of this partnership and service, bolsters the supports we already offer as a university and ensures that our students who may be experiencing financial stress have access to free, healthy and nutritious meals”, says Leon Kerr, Director Student Services, Victoria University.
SecondBite has been operating for 16 years and is one of the largest food rescue organisations in Australia, distributing free food to more than 1300 community food programs across the country. With strict quality guidelines, fruit, vegetables and food that would have once ended up in landfill are put to proper use. SecondBite is an organisation that works tirelessly to ensure that the food we produce as a society is prevented from becoming food waste. They rescue edible surplus and unsold food from growers, manufacturers and retailers and distribute it free of charge to charities and not-for-profits for use in food relief programs.
Last year, prompted by the hardships many students across Australia were facing, SecondBite joined forces with charity food program partner FareShare. Using SecondBite rescued produce, FareShare cooks and freezes nutritious and culturally appropriate meals to help alleviate some of the stress students are experiencing.
Study Melbourne, an initiative of the Victorian Government, provided SecondBite with funding to deliver food relief to students. The funding forms part of an overall $45 million support package for international students impacted by COVID-19, with the Victorian Government providing more support and financial assistance to international students than any other Australian state or territory.
The program benefits students in several ways and is also good for the planet. Those who can’t cook don’t have to struggle – all they need to do is reheat the meal. Those who would rather study than spend time at the stove can do so. And, tonnes of produce is saved from landfill – no small consideration when the Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment estimates that each Australian wastes about 300kgs of food a year.
It’s an initiative that has been welcomed by several tertiary institutions. The free meals come in either 1kg packs, providing 3-4 servings, or in 250g single-serve packs and are available in vegetarian or non-vegetarian. Meals are based on available ingredients, so there is no set menu or option to order specific choices.
“The meals program for university students is one way that SecondBite is working towards ending waste and ending hunger”, says Steve Clifford, CEO, SecondBite. “Importantly, partnering with organisations such as Victoria University, Fareshare and Study Melbourne enables us to provide food to students who need our support most”.
The Victorian Government continues to offer a comprehensive range of supports, services and programs through the Study Melbourne Student Centre, including free casework services to students with complex needs, innovative employability programs, and community wellbeing grants.