Hunger in Australia
Australia’s reputation as a wealthy country often shields underlying issues within the nation. A strikingly large portion of the population experiences hunger on a daily basis, while the federal government falls behind other affluent nations in helping its poor and starving citizens.

Food Insecurity in Australia

Although Australia reduced its poverty rate over the last few years — declining from 16.9% in 2017 to 13.2% in 2019 — the percentage of Australians experiencing hunger has not decreased. This is because food insecurity, rather than insufficient funds, lies at the root of hunger in Australia.

Kathy Radimer, a former CDC epidemiologist, defines food insecurity as the state occurring “whenever the availability of nutritionally adequate and safe foods or the ability to acquire acceptable food in socially acceptable ways is limited or uncertain.” In Australia, sustenance is not necessarily unattainable; rather, food is unsafe and inadequately healthy for much of the nation’s underserved.

In 2019, Foodbank Australia’s hunger report revealed that 21% of Australians experienced food insecurity in the year prior to its survey. In other words, everyone within that 21% had at least one experience running out of food without the means to buy more, due to either circumstantial or financial restraints. More often than not, these are not standalone occurrences: the report also revealed that 30% of food-insecure people go at least one day per week with no food whatsoever.

For women, the numbers are even worse. A staggering 27% of Australian women experienced food insecurity throughout 2019 in comparison with only 18% of men. This difference may arise partly because men experiencing food insecurity typically blame their inability to find work; women, on the other hand, often cite domestic violence, financial abuse and having to raise their children on their own for their food insecurity. Brianna Casey, the CEO of Foodbank Australia, explains: “We hear so many heart-breaking stories from mothers skipping meals so their children can eat to elderly women left on their own feeling isolated because they can’t offer their neighbors or friends so much as a cup of tea or coffee.”

The Impact of COVID-19

Food insecurity was a problem in Australia even before the COVID-19 pandemic. Since the virus began to spread, Foodbank Australia reports that an unprecedented number of Australians — over 1 million — need emergency food. Many of these people now experiencing food insecurity are migrant workers and international students who have recently lost jobs in hospitality and retail.

The federal government has not matched countries of similar prominence and wealth in terms of supporting this upsurge in hunger and food insecurity. International students are not eligible for JobKeeper payments or federal welfare, contrary to a leaked government report that claimed countries like Great Britain, New Zealand and Ireland have given international students access to government resources during the pandemic.

Practical implications of the pandemic have brought other new challenges for food-insecure Australians. Approximately one-fifth of the charities that normally distribute food, such as Shepparton Foodshare and Footprints in the Park, have either closed or significantly decreased aid, thanks to stay-at-home orders and a lack of volunteers. This makes it even more difficult for Australians to receive food in a time of urgent need.

Charity and Aid

Though the COVID-19 pandemic has negatively impacted many organizations that address food insecurity and hunger in Australia, many continue to help. For example, the Friends of Nepal Organization in partnership with the Non-Resident Nepali Association currently provides food for more than 1,000 Nepalese students in Australia, who would currently be food insecure without their intervention.

Large-scale corporations have taken note of the problem as well, with brands such as Arnott’s and PepsiCo donating $350,000 and $400,000, respectively, as well as their products, to Foodbank Australia. The Australian federal government recently began to provide relief, announcing a $16 million bundle to support food relief charities in April 2020. The Australian Defence Force has even been helping pack food at a Foodbank Australia warehouse in Sydney, aiming to combat the upsurge of hunger in Australia.

Despite Australia’s status as a wealthy nation, food insecurity remains rampant. Women suffer the brunt of the problem, sacrificing their small shares of sustenance for their families. The COVID-19 pandemic has worsened hunger in Australia overall, increasing unemployment and weakening food-related charities. Still, many Australian organizations recognize the need to end food insecurity, and they give time and money to try to combat the hardships that food-insecure Australians face.

–  Ava Roberts
Photo: Flickr

op 10 Facts About Hunger in Australia
Australia, home to more than 25 million people, is often regarded as a regional power with one of the strongest economies in the world. However, a significant portion of Australia’s population suffers from food insecurity. Many are unable to afford enough food to feed both themselves and their families. Here are the top 10 facts about hunger in Australia to know:

Top 10 Facts About Hunger in Australia:

    1. More than four million people in Australia suffer from food insecurity. According to Foodbank Australia’s 2018 Hunger Report, more than four million Australians suffer from food insecurity, approximately 18 percent of the population.
    2. One in five children is hungry in Australia. Foodbank Australia reports that 22 percent of children in Australia suffer from food insecurity, and of that 22 percent, nine percent go at least one day a week without a single meal. Additionally, 29 percent of parents report they go a full day without eating at least once a week so their child has something to eat. In order to fight this, some schools provide breakfast programs. Charities such as Helping Hands provide families with weekly access to fresh food for a small donation.
    3. Women are more likely to suffer from hunger. Often due to living on low incomes or pensions, women are at a higher risk of hunger. Women are 31 percent more likely to suffer from food insecurity than men. Women with low incomes have a 49 percent chance of experiencing food insecurity while the rate for men is 38 percent.
    4. Indigenous Australians suffer disproportionately. Food insecurity affects roughly 30 percent of Indigenous Australians, both in remote and urban areas. In cities, Indigenous Australians often experience low incomes and lack of access to cooking facilities, making them more susceptible. In the country, options for purchasing food are limited. On average, Indigenous Australians spend at least 35 percent more of their income on food than Non-Indigenous Australians. However, the Australian government has worked to fight hunger with its Close the Gap campaign. Close the Gap was established in 2008 and focuses on achieving health equality for Indigenous Australians.
    5. Hunger is a greater issue in remote areas. Australians who live in remote areas are 33 percent more likely to suffer from food insecurity than those in cities. In cities, 17 percent of the population suffers from food insecurity. In remote areas that rate is significantly higher at 22 percent.
    6. Hunger negatively impacts mental health. Of Australians impacted by food insecurity and living in remote areas, 65 percent report feeling stressed, and 60 percent say that their situation makes them feel depressed. Australians living in urban areas report similar feelings: 54 percent report they felt stressed and 48 percent report food insecurity makes them feel depressed. Foodbank Australia found that 42 percent of those who receive aid say it helps improve their mental health and wellbeing.
    7. Australia’s high cost of living contributes to hunger. Wage growth has stagnated in recent years while Australians experience heavy cuts to welfare payments. Electricity prices have simultaneously skyrocketed. Consumer spending has plummeted, as increases in wages are unable to sufficiently match increases in costs. As a result of either an unexpected expense or expensive bills, 49 percent of Australians who suffer from food insecurity report being unable to afford food.
    8. Single-Parent Households are more vulnerable. Food insecurity impacts 39 percent of single-parent households in Australia, meaning they are the household type most likely to be hungry. Nearly two-fifths of all single-parent households struggle to put food on the table compared to 23 percent of single person households and 22 percent of family households with children.
    9. The task of providing food to the hungry is placed into the hands of nonprofits. The Australian government has yet to establish a government program that focuses on fighting food insecurity. Australia’s state welfare agency, Centre, does provide a one-time payment to those in crisis but has yet to establish additional support. Feeding the hungry has been placed in the hands of charities and private donors.
    10. Charities are unable to meet the demand for food. Only 36 percent of charities are able to fully meet the food needs of those they serve. This means 64 percent of food needs are still not being met. Additionally, these statistics do not account for those suffering from food insecurity who have not approached a charity. Furthermore, charities are completely unable to provide for seven percent of those who approach them each month.

These are the top 10 facts about hunger in Australia that illuminate the challenges many Australians face every day. Many factors contribute to food insecurity in the country and all too often put the most vulnerable at risk. However, programs such as Close the Gap and the work of nonprofit organizations illustrate how the country is taking powerful steps to end hunger in Australia.

– Nicholas Bykov 
Photo: Flickr

Top 10 Facts About Hunger in Australia
Australia, by definition, is a developed nation. Despite it’s commonly perceived status as a “first world nation,” though, Australia faces a sizeable food crisis that has only gained momentum over the past decade. Here are the top 10 facts about hunger in Australia.

Top 10 Facts About Hunger in Australia

  1. High Costs of Living are Causing Food Insecurity: Over the past year, Australia’s economy has grown an impressive 3.1 percent. This bodes well for livelihoods within the nation but also comes with an assortment of costs. Chief among these is the rising cost of living within the nation. Rising costs of living, directly and indirectly, impact livelihoods in a variety of ways, but most importantly, they can drive people into a state of food insecurity. Food insecurity means that they cannot adequately feed themselves or their family.
  2. Child Hunger is a Key Component of the Crisis: As previously stated, food insecurity is a direct symptom of rising costs of living in Australia. Many of those experiencing food insecurity in Australia are children. A report published earlier this year by Foodbank Australia, entitled “Rumbling Tummies,” found that more than 1 in 5 Australian children were subjected to food insecurity over the past year, meaning they regularly missed meals due to financial reasons.
  3. Australia’s Hunger Crisis is a “Hidden” Crisis: Due to Australia’s global high-income status, people are often shocked to hear that many of its citizens, as many as 1 in 6, go hungry every day. This dichotomy creates a “hidden” crisis, as images of Australia as an established first world nation mask the millions of common Australian households facing food insecurity.
  4. More and More Families are Being Impacted: According to a report by the Foodbank Organization, there was a 10 percent increase in food-insecure families throughout Australia. These findings suggest that this crisis is only now mounting, and will require further attention down the road to be adequately addressed.
  5. A Broad Range of Australians Faces Food Insecurity: Food insecurity impacts a wide strata of different Australians groups. As many as 50 percent of food-insecure Australians are employed, which points to the deep impact that rising living costs have brought about in Australia. Food insecurity affects young, old, rural and metropolitan Australians; it’s not a crisis that falls on one group.
  6. Food Insecurity Promotes Feelings of Depression and Negativity: Food insecurity is a challenge that frequently gives rise to emotional complications, according to a group of surveyed Australians. Depression, the most commonly reported feeling associated with food insecurity, was accompanied by smaller rates of stress, embarrassment, shame, and sadness. Cleary, Australia’s food crisis is more nuanced than a simple lack of resources. This crisis is multi-faceted, and, in turn, its response should go beyond just providing at-risk communities access to food banks and food stamps. The emotional ramifications of the crisis should be considered as well.
  7. Poverty, and In Turn Food Insecurity, is a Hard Trend to Buck: According to a report published by the University of Melbourne, the idea that poverty is short-lived for most Australians is a dominant narrative within the nation. This idea is misguided though, as less than 15 percent of Australians below the poverty line escape poverty on a yearly basis. This suggests that poverty in Australia is a pervasive condition and that treating its root causes cannot be swept under the rug if rates of food insecurity are to be reduced in the nation.
  8. More Australians Than You Think Live Below the Poverty Line: While the Australian poverty line is an occasionally unreliable metric, it can be used to make general inferences about the number of Australian citizens that are struggling to make ends meet, and, in turn, put food on the table. The population of Australia is roughly 24 million people, and about three million of these people — after having their housing costs taken into account — are estimated to live below the poverty line. While this number may appear high, it is important to consider that its estimation relied on the inclusion of living costs, which are only continuing to rise in Australia.
  9. A Changing Climate Could Impact Australia’s Hunger Crisis: In 2008, a drought-plagued Murray-Darlin Basin — a watershed in Australia — and led to a seasonal food crisis in the surrounding area. This points to the threat of climate change to the maintenance of food-access stability in Australia.
  10. Cultural Barriers Can Lead to Food Insecurity: Recent immigrants and those not originally from Australia face higher rates of food insecurity due to a lack of cultural knowledge on local food customs. These groups are more susceptible to food insecurity for a variety of other reasons as well, and, like indigenous groups in Australia, typically face higher rates of food insecurity.

Complex and Multifaceted

Hunger in Australia operates at multiple levels and impacts groups differently across a vast range of the socio-political spectrum. Due to this pervasiveness and complexity, the treatment of the hunger crisis in this developed nation will require a broad, multilateral approach.

– Ian Greenwood
Photo: Flickr