Do we really have food insecurity in Australia?

People are often surprised to learn that in 2014, many Australians are going without food or unable to access healthy food.

Even before the May Federal Budget, Emergency Food Relief services were reporting unprecedented demand for assistance, from a broader range of people than ever before.What is Food Security

 

Some inconvenient facts 

  • Nationally, Food Bank now assists half a million people with food relief each month, half of whom are children.
  • Anglicare (Sydney/Illawarra) saw a 73% increase in emergency relief received by families from 2007-2014.

Over-stretched household budgets mean that families have to weigh competing demands to pay bills, rent and medical expenses or to buy adequate food, forcing many to families to choose cheaper and less healthy foods, or to go without meals.

Going without food or eating poor food can have a negative and lasting impact on family relations, on school attendance, on energy levels and concentration, on ability to participate in workplace or community – in short, wide-reaching and devastating consequences which can be largely hidden from view.

 

Who’s at risk?

Those on low incomes A 2004 study in 3 low income suburbs in SW Sydney found 21% food insecurity, with 30% of households with children and over 45% single parent families being food insecure .

Newly arrived refugees. A 2002 Perth study found over 70% food insecurity among Perth refugees; a SW Sydney study found 85% of Dinka speakers were food insecure

People in supported accommodation or homeless: A 2010 study of young people in Sydney found food insecurity was widespread and often severe.

Aboriginal communities:Aboriginal people are at higher risk of food insecurity than non-indigenous Australians and are twice as likely to report no usual daily intake of fruit and vegetables. In 2004-2005 24% of Indigenous Australians aged 15 years and over reported they ran out of food in the last 12 months, compared to 5% of non-indigenous

 

What can we do?

How can we respond to this dire situation?

How can we work together to alleviate hunger and put food on the table?

What can we do to create a food secure future for individuals, families and communities?

Putting Food on the Table is the first opportunity for community and rights workers, health workers and nutritionists, academics and policy makers to come together with a specific focus on food insecurity.

We will showcase some existing projects that are really making a difference, and explore possibilities to work together to advocate for policy changes. Actions may include:

  • Small scale or local actions to increase immediate access to food,
  • Regional actions to address the factors impacting on food security
  • On a broader level, looking at structural changes to alleviate poverty and build economically secure livelihoods.
  • Ensuring our food system operate well to achieve environments that promote and protect health and wellbeing for all.

References

Foodbank NSW. End Hunger report 2012

Anglicare 6th Annual State of Sydney report 2014.

Nolan et al. Food insecurity in three socially disadvantaged localities in Sydney, Australia.Health Promotion Journal of Australia 2006;17: 247-54

Faye Southcombe, NSW Refugee Health Service Feeding the family in an unfamiliar environment: Food insecurity among recently resettled refugees.2008

Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Performance Framework 2008

Association for Services to Torture and Trauma Survivors In. Good Food For New Arrivals (2004)

Lynn McIntyre. Food Security: more than a determinant of health. Policy Options. 2003