The healthy student diet - an unattainable dream during cost of living crisis
By Vanessa Elley (she/her)
A healthy and affordable diet is even further out of reach for students with inflation driving grocery prices up.
Stats NZ’s monthly Food Price Index reported in January that fruit and vegetable prices had increased 16% since last January, with grocery food prices (including cheese and eggs) going up 11%.
As essential food items become increasingly expensive, students in hardship are going without meals to make their food last.
Manager of AUTSA’s Tautoko initiative, Georgia Kirkwood, says the problem is only going to get worse as the crisis continues.
“Inflation is becoming a big issue for students. Most people are already living off of noodles and not necessarily the healthiest of foods currently, so it’s just going to get worse.”
Tautoko offers support to students who are struggling with the cost of living crisis, through free food on campus and food vouchers that those in need can apply to receive.
Aid like this is necessary for students trying to balance work and study, as full time jobs are no longer enough, says Kirkwood.
“A lot of our students that we get coming through are sacrificing their study hours to work, to make more money to be able to even afford to live.”
AUT also has their own support systems in place for increased financial strain, such as the Student Support Fund and financial wellbeing resources, but Kirkwood says reaching students can be a problem.
“I think our biggest issue with actually being able to reach people who need the help is the exposure... We’ve got a good system going. I just think it needs to be something that’s more frequent.”
She also said shame can play a factor in why people avoid looking for support, even when they might need it.
“It’s a big issue with shame, and being whakamā about coming and seeing people in the first place, so we try to keep those options available and open.”
Currently Tautoko is focusing on about 80 students, having supported around 2,000 cases since 2020 when they rebranded from AUTSA’s old ‘Foodie Godmother’ service.
In cases where further support is needed, Tautoko has alliances with AUT’s Student Hub, who can help direct students towards further financial aid.
However, according to Stats NZ, 2022 saw the largest annual increase in food prices in 32 years.
This will undoubtedly cause more strain for students already struggling to afford food alongside rent, tuition costs, and the overall cost of living in Auckland.