Over ten years ago the UTSSA established the Bluebird Brekkie Bar, a pop-up café providing free healthy breakfasts for students. The initiative won an Australasian Green Gown Award (student initiatives category) in 2012, and the International Green Gown Award in 2013. In 2016 the UTSSA expanded the initiative by creating the Night Owl Noodle Bar, providing free noodle soups to students two evenings per week. These programs are providing approximately 3000 meals per week.
SA advocates for students facing food insecurity
According to a UTAS 2022 study, in Australia, up to 40 per cent of university students were food insecure.
Post the pandemic the Students’ Association saw first hand the struggles being faced by some students to survive, with the cost of living. We identified a need in the student body for essential pantry items to help students through acute periods of financial stress.
The Students’ Association reached out to key stakeholders across the university to build a network of supporters – UTS Sustainability, Space Planning, UTS Housing, and Central Services. With support from these stakeholders, the SA President - Anna Thieben, approached the key decision maker – the Deputy Vice Chancellor (Students and Education). She secured senior executive support, and the Bluebird Pantry project was to become a reality.
In the following weeks the Students’ Association sourced donated non-perishable food and other basic household items to stock the Coop space on campus. The furniture, shelving and all utensils are re-used or recycled.
The Pantry is largely a welfare initiative, designed to meet the basic welfare requirement of students who find themselves in an acute situation. Importantly, it’s about students helping students. The Pantry is staffed mostly be volunteer students, (and occasionally paid staff from the SA). In addition to the social sustainability benefits the project’s other main benefit has been utilising donated food and items destined for landfill.
Over 2600 students have registered and received food, plus other essentials from the Bluebird Pantry. The Pantry provides approximately 13,310 meals per semester to students in need.