'Very simple concept recognising reality of student life' - third-level institutions urged to set up food banks
A food bank for students at a college of further education (FE) has been a big success and the principal believes the idea should be copied by universities, institutes of technology and all other FE colleges.
The 'Take It Or Leave It' project started last January in Kerry College of Further Education, Tralee when management and staff recognised how difficult it was for some students to balance their budgets.
It involves placing an open shelf in a central location and inviting the college community to donate perishable food items.
Principal Mary Lucey says: "Students can take a food item on a day when they are in need and leave it back again on a day when they might have extra.
"It is a very simple concept recognising the reality of student life. It could be mature students trying to support families while they return to education, Leaving Cert students trying to live on a tight budget and perhaps their first time away from home, single parents paying for childcare etc."
Once the initiative started, local support from charity organisations quickly followed and St Vincent De Paul and Kerry Food Share regularly contribute batches of perishable foods to the college. Initially, it was suggested the Take It Or Leave It shelf should be placed in a discreet location in the college but Ms Lucey believes that students needing a bit of additional support now and then should not be made to feel ashamed about availing of this support.
"All of us in college were at times short of money and from a parent's view I think it is very reassuring to know students of Kerry College of Further Education may be short of money at times but will never be short of food!" she adds.