International students biggest users of MUN's campus food bank
Roughly 4,800 bags of groceries go out the bank's doors each year
More than half of Memorial University's food bank users in St. John's are students who make up a smaller portion of the school's population: international graduate students.
"The need is great," said Paul Murphy, president of the MUN campus food bank.
On average, 4,800 bags of food go out the food bank's doors every year, and 60 per cent of those on the receiving end are international students.
They come to Memorial University from Africa, the Middle East, India, East Asia and South America.
"The students come here and then find apartment rents are steeper [and] food is more expensive. They find that their costs are greater than they thought, and sometimes they run out of food before the end of the month," said Murphy.
"I'm not surprised," said Emma lang, an international student from Massachusetts.
Lang, who is working on a folklore PHD, said many internationals are living on the edge financially, and are in desperate shape.
"I've seen people walk to the food bank and, when I ask them about it, they deny it," said Lang.
"They don't want their parents to know that they've come to this great university — and their parents are often sacrificing quite a bit to send them — but they are not able to eat," said Lang.
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"It's not a joke. It's not a joke," Murphy said, adding that many graduate students from around the world are just scraping by.
"If anything comes along, a little extra cost or a little extra charge, they [have] to pay somehow, and then you don't have money for groceries," said Murphy.
In December, the food bank saw a 30 per cent jump in Christmas hampers.
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Then, weeks later, the students were back in droves.
"We had lineups for most of January," Murphy said.
Lang, who's been living in St. John's for almost three years, can attest to the hardships of living the international student life. At times, she has had to budget to an extreme.
"How many days can I make this bag of rice last? What is the cheapest way for me to buy potatoes," she said she asks herself regularly.
"I've had meals where all I've eaten is potatoes. I rarely eat meat and almost never by fresh vegetables," added Lang.
Tougher times ahead
Tuition fees for international students are going up 30 per cent in the fall of 2018.
Two new fees are also being introduced: a campus renewal fee and a student services fee.
Lang isn't impressed.
"We're being left with an unpleasant taste in our mouths because we're facing another fee hike," she said.
"Last year the chaplaincy set up a winter coat drive so you could get a coat. Our students shouldn't need that."
At the food bank, Murphy said he's already seeing the effect of rising fees.
"Last Monday night I had a student come in — and he hadn't been here since Christmas — because he's had to start saving up his money in case there was a fee increase," he said.
"He's trying to solve the problem by coming here and getting his food here, and then saving the money that way."