OzHarvest to the rescue for international students


By Chantal Roberts

OzHarvest Hamper Hubs provide relief to international students

When COVID-19 raised its head earlier this year, many international students in Sydney were left stranded. They found themselves out of work, unable to access government support and struggling to make ends meet.

Madhuri Suresh, an international student completing a Master of Music at the Australian Institute of Music was hit hard.

“Unfortunately because of the pandemic, I was let go from my job,” she says. This resulted in her needing to move to cheaper accommodation as her family struggled to find the money to pay for her tuition.

“Apart from [the] early release of superannuation, I wasn’t able to get any other help.”

Between March and May this year, Unions NSW conducted a survey on the impacts of the pandemic and subsequent restrictions implemented by the government upon temporary migrants. The majority of survey’s participants were those on student visas. It found  international students have been severely impacted with an astonishing 46% of them needing to regularly forgo meals, in order to reduce their living expenses.

Enter OzHarvest, an Australia-wide organisation rescuing food that would otherwise go to waste from donors such as supermarkets and delivering it to people in need. OzHarvest Hamper Hubs is an initiative helping to fill a gap in support during the COVID-19 crisis by providing food hampers and frozen ready to eat meals to vulnerable members of the community, in particular, temporary visa holders and international students.

“This hamper really helped me a lot,” says Shu-Han Lin who is from Taiwan and studying a Master of Digital Communication and Culture at The University of Sydney. She has struggled with being alone during lockdown and is grateful for the support of OzHarvest.

Jim Yu, also from Taiwan and studying a Master of IT at The University of Sydney said he didn’t expect to receive so much food in the hamper.

“[I] feel like someone cares about us,” says Yu.

The program has been made possible due to funding and support from the City of Sydney and NSW Government, nib Health Funds and Mirvac, with City of Sydney providing a $1 million grant.

Annie Tonkin from OzHarvest says that since the Hamper Hubs program commenced in May, the demand for the service has remained consistent.

“More than 9,000 hampers filled with fresh fruit, vegetables, ready to cook soup packs and essential food staples like pasta, rice, muesli, milk and tinned food items have been distributed…to date,” she says.

In addition, Tonkin says OzHarvest chefs and ambassadors have prepared more than 4,600 cooked meals to be distributed at the pop-up location.

The Hamper Hub program is currently located at Harbourside, Darling Harbour and was chosen due to the proximity to universities and student accommodation.

“[The location] allowed us to reach and support students from more than 227+ different educational institutions,” Tonkin says.

International students and temporary visa holders in need of food relief can visit OzHarvest’s website at https://events.ozharvest.org/hamper and register to pick up their hamper on Thursdays between 12pm and 3pm.