By Patricia Jackson
A high rate of competition for jobs and rising living costs have resulted in increasing numbers of university students being unable to afford basic food items.
University of the Sunshine Coast records show food requests have nearly doubled from 164 in 2010 to 324 in 2011.
USC student equity and diversity officer Marjorie Blowers said housing affordability and the rising cost of living have driven the demand.
“I have noticed over the last 18 months a substantial increase in the number of requests from students seeking emergency food supplies from the food bank,” she said.
“Approximately 65 per cent of these students have families to support.
“The cost of renting on the Sunshine Coast has increased considerably over the last few years.
“Students who are on Austudy or any of the Centrelink payments only just cover their rent and electricity.
“They are living below the poverty line.”
The latest figures available from Council showed between 2001 and 2008 an average rent increase of 9.5 per cent was experienced annually on the Coast, while national averages for rent increased by around 2.6 per cent annually.
The report stated rental cost comparisons, from 2001 to 2008, between the Coast, south-east Queensland and Queensland as a whole showed Coast rents were on average four per cent higher than south-east Queensland and 8.5 per cent higher than Queensland as a whole.
Ms Blowers said an average fortnightly student rent was $350 and the standard Austudy and Youth Allowance was $400 per fortnight, with rent assistance up to a $90 maximum if a student was eligible.
“Students who have not been able to find a part-time job really struggle to survive on government assistance and are forced to drop their studies to find full time employment,” she said.
USC careers and graduate employment officer, Clive May, said it could be very difficult to find any type of employment on the coast due to the high rate of competition.
Mr May said local and State Governments are trying to diversify employment sectors on the coast.
“At the moment the coast is really known for its hospitality, tourism, health and education industries,” he said.
“The local and state governments are trying to get different types of industries to invest in setting up business on the coast.”
Mr May said sectors the governments have been developing include aviation, waste minimisation, professional services, food and beverages, business tourism and events, primary sectors, retail and light industry.
He said the state government was trying to increase some agricultural industries such as food producers and food manufacturers.
“If they can get people to invest in setting up business here that will have a knock-on effect for employment and obviously the employment has a knock-on effect for the economy in the region,” he said.
“There are lots of tiny bits of pockets, individual organisations and companies already producing food and food products.
“The council and the State want to invest huge amounts of money to try and get new industries to be working effectively on the Coast.”