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Where You Can Seek Support if You Can’t Afford Food or Groceries

The news is dominated by stories of panic-buying and hoarding groceries. You might also find your social media feed flooded with discounts on food deliveries and photos of friends enjoying their isolation nights in with takeaway. But what happens if you’re struggling to afford food at the moment? 

In Australia, there’s a number of options you can turn to if you can’t afford your groceries, as well as support services that can offer advice on steps forward, so you don’t go hungry during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Your education provider

Many education providers across the country are committing to provide a range of student hardship support, some of which includes food packages or financial grants to help with the purchase of essentials like groceries. For example, Curtin University’s Curtin Student Guild has compiled a list of COVID-19 Support Resources for students, which includes Emergency Food Relief with food parcels of basic items, while the University of Canberra’s UCX Food Pantry has partnered with Canberra Relief Network to provide relief hampers for students, consisting of a variety of non-perishable food items and some essential toiletries.

SBS has compiled a regularly updated list of Australian universities and the support they are offering international students during COVID-19, so you can check here to see what services your university has, while this list also includes government and other support packages. Alternatively, ring your education provider directly and ask what support is on offer for international students during this time. Remember to also check with your education provider’s student union or guild, as they may be offering support services, too.

National initiatives

Ask Izzy

Ask Izzy can help you find services near you, free and anonymously – you just have to enter your suburb. As well as searching for services providing food, you can also find support for housing, healthcare, counselling, legal advice and addiction treatment.


Foodbank is Australia’s largest food relief organisation. For individual support, Foodbank offers Foodbank Food Hubs, Foodbank Pop-Ups and Foodbank Hamper Program, but to access these services you must get a referral from one of Foodbank’s charity partners – you can find state-by-state lists on their website.

Grow Free

Grow Free is about growing and giving away vegetables, herbs and flower seedlings so that people can start a garden. The service is available nationwide, although it is most accessible in South Australia. The rules are simple: give what you can, take what you need. There are maps available of the Grow Free ‘carts’ in your area, or a list is available here with opening hours.

Australian Red Cross

On 30 April 2020, the Australian Red Cross announced it would be providing emergency relief support for people on temporary visas – this includes international students. Emergency relief is to help people meet their basic needs, like food, medicine or shelter, with a small one-off emergency relief payment. For more information and to apply for this relief, click here.

Salvation Army

The Salvation Army is located across Australia and can provide emergency relief to those in need, including financial assistance for food. Contact the Salvos Assessment Line on 1300 371 288 (9am-5pm, Monday to Friday) to speak to a support worker who will assess your situation and refer you to a local ‘Salvos Connect’ site to receive assistance.

Khalsa Aid Australia

Khalsa Aid Australia operates nation-wide, delivering food packages to international students.  

Places to find food in Sydney

Study NSW has put together a list of organisations providing emergency food assistance for international students here. If you are an international student in Sydney, here are some places you can find food:

  • OzHarvest Market – Students can get free food hampers at the OzHarvest Market, located at 147 Anzac Parade, Kensington. The Market is open from 10am until 2pm, Tuesday to Friday. Remember to follow their visitor philosophy – ‘Take what you need, give if you can’.
  • Hindu Council of Australia – International students in need can receive cooked food and dry groceries through the Hindu Council of Australia. Fill out the Crisis Help Form online on their website.
  • Turbans 4 Australia – A Sikh charity organisation, Turbans 4 Australia will help anyone in need regardless of their race, religion or ethnicity. They are delivering cooked food and groceries to international students across Sydney. For more information, check their Facebook page.
  • Lou’s Place – For female international students, Lou’s Place in King’s Cross is providing free takeaway lunchboxes at 12:30pm each day.
  • Bay City Care – Community Foodcare, run by Bay City Care, is providing free food hampers and restaurant-prepared meals. Check the Bay City Care website for more details.
  • For those in Wollongong, the Food Fairness Illawarra lists all the free meal services available in the area for anyone facing food insecurity here.

Places to find food in Melbourne

Study Melbourne has put together a list of organisations providing a range of different support services, including emergency food assistance, for international students here. If you are an international student in Melbourne, here are some places you can find food:

  • Empower Australia – Food Relief Centres run by Empower Australia can be found in five locations across Melbourne, open from 10.30am to 3pm. For more information, check out the Empower Australia website.
  • Attica Soup Project – Melbourne restaurant, Attica, has started the Attica Soup Project, offering free meals for hospitality workers on visas who have lost their job due to COVID-19 and who are struggling to make ends meet. You can read more about this project here.
  • Community Information & Support Victoria (CISVic) – Emergency relief in the form of food and food vouchers, in addition to other support, is available through Community Information & Support Victoria. Use the search facility on their website to find your local service centres.
  • Comunidade Brasileira em Melbourne – The Brazilian community in Melbourne have banded together to support fellow international students with food donations. Contact them via their Facebook page if you are seeking assistance.
  • Vallabh Youth Organization Australia is offering food packages to students in Melbourne. You can find more information here.
  • Melbourne-based Australia India Sports Council (AISC) and Rajput and Kshatriya Association (RAMA) of Melbourne are providing international student food packages including rice, atta (wheat flour), daal (lentils) and masala (spices). 
  • Our Shout – In collaboration with Queen Victoria Market (QVM), the City of Melbourne is offering vouchers valued at $200 for international students to purchase groceries and food from QVM. For more information, click here.

Places to find food in Brisbane

Support advice, including information on organisations providing food relief, for international students in Brisbane can be found on the Choose Brisbane website or on Communify. If you are an international student in Brisbane, you can head here for food:

  • Spice of India – Spice of India in Kedron is offering free plates of vegetarian curry to international students during this time.

Places to find food in Adelaide

The South Australian Government’s International Student Support Package is recommended for all students experiencing hardship during this time – this funding can be used for food relief. In addition, here are other places you can find food in Adelaide:

  • Fred’s Van – Run by the St. Vincent de Paul Society (‘Vinnies’), Fred’s Van is a mobile food service providing meals to those facing hardship. You can check the Fred’s Van timetable on the Vinnies website.

Places to find food in Perth

StudyPerth has put together a list of organisations providing a range of different support services, including emergency food assistance, for international students here. If you are an international student in Perth, here are some places you can find food:

  • St. Patrick’s Community Support Centre – St Patrick’s provides free daily breakfasts and subsidised lunches in its client dining room. Find more information here.
  • Second Harvest – Second Harvest’s Food Centres offer free bread, fruit and vegetables, as well as low-cost groceries, for those in need.
  • MATEinOz – MATEinOz is delivering free food hampers to international students during this time. All you have to do is download the MATEinOz app and request assistance through the COVID-19 Help button.

Places to find food in Canberra

Study Canberra has put together a list of support available to international students from larger tertiary education providers here. If you are seeking emergency food relief, here are some suggestions:

  • The Little Pantry – Thursdays from 9.30am to 1.00pm, The Little Pantry is open by appointment for food relief, or any weekday for emergency packs. Please call 6282 2644 if you require assistance.
  • Canberra City Care – HandUp Food Care, run through Canberra City Care, offers free bread, fruit and vegetables to those in need, in addition to other staple groceries at substantially reduced prices. Membership costs $4 a year and you will need to fill in an application.

Places to find food in Darwin

StudyNT has created care packages for international students currently in self-isolation – you are able to register for one here. Other food options for international students in Darwin include:

  • Sikh Family Food Van – This small group is providing cooked meals for international students, with both delivery and takeaway options available. Check their Facebook page for more information.
  • #KindnessShake – This community-led initiative seeks to provide weekly, free meals to those impacted by COVID-19, especially international students. For more information, plus details on other local food initiatives, check their Facebook page.

Places to find food in Hobart

Study Tasmania has put together a list of useful resources for international students to utilise during this time – you can find it here. For international students seeking food in Hobart, try here:

  • Anglicare TAS – Through Anglicare, the Show Hope project is providing meals to international students at 7pm on Tuesdays and Thursdays outside of Chillies restaurant in Sandy Bay.

Do you have a question about international student life in Australia that you want answered by experts? Whether it’s about visas, mental health, travel, your studies, employment, relationships or even simply finding a friend to talk to, reach out to us.

Check out our International Students Ask page to submit your question.