The rising cost of rent, fuel, interest rates and other necessities is creating situations where people must choose between buying food and meeting other financial responsibilities, such as paying bills. In the past year alone, 12,500 Canberrans ran out of food and could not afford to buy more.

Record numbers of people in our community are going hungry for the first time, and help is available thanks to Canberra’s food pantries.

Food pantries provide low-cost and free food items to anyone that needs them. To find out more, we spoke to the UCX Food Pantry, located at the University of Canberra (UC).

We are located in the UCX Student Lounge and give UC students access to free food supplies. We receive food from a number of different sources including Foodbank, OzHarvest and Second Bite. Food items include fresh fruit and veggies and canned items. We are open from 11am to 2pm on Tuesdays, 11am to 1pm on Thursdays, and 4pm to 6pm on Wednesdays. We also have a low sensory hour from 1pm to 2pm on Tuesdays so that we can cater to more people. It can get quite loud and crowded in our food pantry, so this session provides a gentler environment for those that need it.
About 700 students come through each week. Many students are living independently for the first time and are struggling to afford what they need. Some students only use the pantry once or twice, others come more often. Demand for our services is growing and all UC students are welcome.
No. Many people assume you have to be at the ‘lowest of lows’ before visiting a food pantry, but that is just not true. A food pantry shouldn’t be your last resort. We want people to visit us and other support services before they start to really struggle. Early intervention allows us to avoid people getting to that point.
People may believe they don’t need support from a food pantry. Yet when we speak to them, we discover they are having to choose between buying food and other essentials. It doesn’t matter if you’re having a small crisis or longer term struggles, everyone is welcome and should feel comfortable. There is also the stigma around accessing support services. People want to be able to fend for themselves, and they don’t want help from anyone. But food insecurity doesn’t define who you are.
We are about relationships, not just food. We are like a small community where people can come down, see a friendly face and have a chat. Everyone is quite genuine and friendly at our food pantry. It’s great when people open up to us and we are able to help them. It’s also nice for people to realise they aren’t the only one struggling – it can be a relief to know they’re not alone. We also seek to help people get set up for life in regard to food and nutrition. Not everyone has had access to the same education growing up, and we’re able to help give them the knowledge and tools to make more nutritious choices after they’ve graduated.
Yes, a lot of international students come through our food pantry. It can be a struggle for international students who are away from home and may also face a slight language barrier. They may not be able to read the food labelling or understand what a specific product is for, and we help the best we can.

We all need a little help sometimes. If you’re finding it difficult to feed yourself and / or your family, we encourage you to find your local food pantry now at interactive map.

Alternatively, you can find out more in person at the Community Info Hub, located at the Griffin Centre, 20 Genge Street, Canberra or call the Hub on 02 6248 7988.