Melbourne Uni providing free meals for hungry students

Katie Johnson

With lockdown five dragging on with no clear end in sight, many students are out of work and struggling to put meals on the table.

To cater for those in insecure or casual work, the University of Melbourne has been offering pre-packaged meals and fresh fruit and vegetable boxes to their students free of charge.

Global Learning team senior advisor Bradley Manson said demand for the program had remained constant since it began in May 2020.

“We’ve had the heavy demand for the program during the long lockdown during winter last year and since then the need has remained constant,” Mr Manson said.

“We’ve run nonstop since last year, even though a lot of the other universities’ free meals programs have shut down.”

Since the program began, both international and domestic students have been using the program to receive a weekly allocation of meals at Uni Lodge.

The meals are available to any student who registers online, with no questions asked about their circumstances.

Mr Manson said that aside from promoting the program, the biggest barrier to students receiving meals was convincing them that it was acceptable to get help.

“A lot of students think that they’re not struggling as hard as other students so they don’t feel like they should get free meals,” Mr Mason said.

“But we have the supply, we don’t ask about your circumstances, we don’t require any documentation, and no one walks away empty handed.”

“We only have one ethos which is to get as many meals into as many hands as possible.”

Mr Manson said that Victorian students needed extra support when it came to food security as doors to employment had been shut during the constant lockdowns.

“A lot of our students are casual workers employed in fields like hospitality and retail, so there’s been a huge loss of income for them, and international students have received no support at all,” Mr Manson said.

“Many vulnerable students have been telling us that the program saved their lives, because with COVID around they were scared and anxious to go out of their houses to get food.”

Twenty students who were identified as having severe mental health issues or a disability were also able to access the free meals via a delivery service that delivered straight to their doors.

Mr Manson said that the program had been extremely successful so far and they had received positive feedback from students.

“Dozens of students have written in to tell us how much the program helped them during the lockdown, so it’s great to get that feedback,” he said.

If you are a University of Melbourne student wanting to receive a free meal pack, visit the university website •

Caption: SecondBite ambassador Matt Preston handing out meals to students at the beginning of the pandemic in 2020.

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