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

For international students in Australia, balancing the cost of living with academic commitments can sometimes be a juggling act, particularly when it comes to managing grocery expenses. Fortunately, there’s a network of support available. Across the country, various programs and initiatives are in place to help students from overseas keep their pantries full without straining their budgets.

Let’s take a look at the support systems in place to help you manage your grocery needs effectively.

Your education provider

Educational institutions across Australia often have support systems in place for students experiencing financial hardship, which may include providing food packages or financial assistance specifically for purchasing groceries. For instance, universities like Melbourne University and Australian National University offer free food packs and programs for students in need. To find out if similar support is available at your institution, it’s beneficial to search your university’s website for terms related to student support or food assistance.

Reaching out directly to your education provider, as well as their student union or guild, can be an effective way to gather detailed information about the support options available to you. These organisations are typically well-informed about the various assistance programs and can guide you towards the resources that best suit your needs.

@insiderguides Food insecurity in Australia is on the rise. Here’s where you can turn for help if you’re having trouble affording groceries. *Important note: data was pulled in December 2023. #CapCut #internationalstudents #foodinsecurity #foodinsecurityawareness #foodrelief #australiancharity #foodsupport ♬ Calm LoFi song(882353) – S_R

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

The Australian Red Cross provides 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.  

Read more: How to Save Money on Food and Groceries in Australia

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 freshly cooked meals from the Council’s Karma Kitchen at campuses around Australia.
  • Turbans 4 Australia – A Sikh charity organisation, Turbans 4 Australia will help anyone in need regardless of their race, religion or ethnicity. Every Sunday from 11am to 12pm, they hand out free food and grocery hampers at their headquarters in Western Sydney to those struggling with food insecurity.
  • Lou’s Place – For female international students, Lou’s Place provides a range of services including food relief. Get in contact to see how they can help you.
  • Community Foodcare – Run by Grace City Church, Community Foodcare offers free bread, fruit and vegetables to low-income earners.
  • 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.
  • 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.

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 University of Queensland website. The Deck has also made a comprehensive list of emergency relief organisations in Brisbane, many of which offer food aid.

Places to find food in Adelaide

The Adelaide City Care’s Food Relief Outreach program is specifically for international students experiencing hardships. Food is available fortnightly (Friday) from 2pm to 4pm at 33 Sturt Street Adelaide (at the City Care Shed located behind the car park via Myers Lane). Make sure you register your attendance here. 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.
  • OzHarvest Adelaide – If you’re looking for help with food, OzHarvest has a free and anonymous search for services in your area. You’ll just need to add your suburb and it will display results of places close to your providing food.

Places to find food in Perth

StudyPerth has put together a list of organisations providing a range of different support services for international students and can direct you to food relief organisations. 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.

Places to find food in Canberra

If you are seeking emergency food relief in Canberra, here are some suggestions:

  • The Little Pantry – Thursdays from 9.30 am to 1.00 pm, The Little Pantry is open by appointment for food relief, or any weekday for emergency packs. Please call (02) 6282 2644 if you require assistance.
  • Community Pantry – Run through Communities at Work, Community Pantry offers free or heavily discounted groceries. They have two locations, one in Tuggeranong and the other in Gungahlin.

Places to find food in Darwin

Darwin has a number of food relief options for international students:

  • Sikh Family Food Van – This small group provides cooked meals for those in need, with both delivery and takeaway options available. Check out their website for more information.
  • #KindnessShake – This community-led initiative seeks to support international students in financial hardships. Check out their website and get in contact to see how they can assist you.
  • Mission Australia – You can make an appointment with Mission Australia, which provides emergency relief and helps people to address their immediate basic needs in times of financial crisis or hardship through material or financial aid (e.g. vouchers, clothes and food parcels).

Places to find food in Hobart

For international students seeking food in Hobart, try these locations:

  • TUSA – TUSA is a student-run organisation that supports University of Tasmania students who are experiencing food insecurity. They run a Food Hub and can arrange financial support for groceries. Find out more here.
  • Hobart City MissionThis charity assists with food packs, food vouchers, vouchers for City Mission Op Shops, utilities and referrals to appropriate services and agencies. They have five locations around the city.