Report Finds One in Five Australian Kids Going Hungry
16 April 2018 at 3:51 pm
Australia’s largest food relief organisation has called for urgent action to address food insecurity, after a report found more than one in five children have gone hungry in the past year.
Foodbank released its research report on the prevalence of child hunger in Australia on Sunday, drawn from a representative sample of 1,002 parents.
It found that 22 per cent of children in Australia have experienced food insecurity over the past year, along with 15 per cent of adults.
Almost one in three parents living in food insecure households said their children went hungry at least once a month, while 11 per cent of food insecure children went to bed without eating dinner at least once a week.
— Foodbank Australia (@FoodbankAus) April 14, 2018
Foodbank Australia’s CEO, Brianna Casey, told Pro Bono News she was not surprised by the findings.
“It doesn’t surprise us anymore unfortunately. We’ve been observing a trend over the last few years of a growing number of Australians who are experiencing food insecurity,” Casey said.
“And we’ve been seeing some very worrying trends in terms of the numbers of children who are going without food.
“That prompted us to do this research looking quite specifically at hunger in children and to think that there are one in five children that are experiencing food insecurity at some point each year should be a wake up call for all Australians.”
Casey said it was important to acknowledge that parents were doing their best to protect their children from hunger.
Foodbank’s research found that 36 per cent of parents in food insecure households skipped a meal at least once a week so their children could eat, while 29 per cent of parents went a whole day without anything on a weekly basis.
“We’re seeing parents skipping meals. We’ve seen parents going above and beyond in terms of the sacrifices to feed their children,” Casey said.
“But unfortunately with housing affordability, with gas and electricity prices being the way that they are at the moment and just the general everyday cost of living, it simply doesn’t take much to tip a household budget into a situation where it’s under huge stress.”
The report noted the diverse range of pressures placed on parents inhibiting their ability to provide food.
“The cost of living is closely linked to food insecurity. An unexpected expense or large bill (52 per cent) and housing payments (38 per cent) are two of the most prominent causes of food insecurity in households with children under 15,” the report said.
“Not only do families have significant bills to manage, many also struggle with low incomes, either receiving low wages or living on a pension (37 per cent).
“Almost two in five parents (38 per cent) suggest they cannot afford enough food because there is just not enough money in the first place.”
Casey said Foodbank’s obligation was “to try to get food to the many charities across Australia who assist vulnerable Australians”.
But she noted that the organisation’s front-line charity partners reported a 10 per cent increase in demand for food relief in the past year.
As a result, these charities were forced to turn away 65,000 people every month due to lack of food.
Casey said the Australian government needed to take “very urgent action” on food insecurity.
“We don’t want this report to become a political football. We need a bipartisan approach, a long-term approach to tackling food insecurity in Australia once and for all,” she said.
“We are currently putting a band-aid over a gaping wound. We need the Australian government to sit down with the opposition and minor parties to look at a food security strategy. We need to look at why this is happening.
“We need to look at things like housing affordability and gas and electricity prices. We need to look at the way in which essential programs like school breakfast programs are funded or in fact not funded in many states and territories.
“We need to look at ways to deliver long-term solutions. We owe it to our children to do better than this.”
If you’re on Facebook, you can help @FoodbankAus shine a spotlight on child hunger by adding a #NoRumblingTummies frame to your profile pic. Search “end child hunger” and hit apply – simple! #EndChildHunger #FoodBank pic.twitter.com/MOkVSmNepj
— Brianna Casey (@briannacasey1) April 15, 2018
ACTU secretary Sally McManus put the report’s findings down to an increased cost of living and stagnant wage growth.
She attacked the Turnbull government for denying there was a crisis in wage growth.
“No one should go without food and it’s outrageous that this government is insisting that nothing is wrong,” McManus said.
“No kid should have to go to school hungry, that one in five have is a savage indictment of a government that could not be more out of touch with ordinary Australians.
“We need wage rises for all working people. People are being left behind, and unable to afford the essentials of life, let alone be comfortable and secure. Working people need power to win pay rises now.”
This report comes just days after Foodbank was given a $30 million grant from the Australian government towards the creation of a new Cooperative Research Centre (CRC) on food waste.
Casey said she hoped the CRC would go some way to alleviating the issue of food insecurity in Australia.
“We are very hopeful that this incredibly important CRC is going to find ways of not only diminishing food waste in Australia, but identifying where that waste is occurring so that we can grab perfectly edible surplus food and redirect it to the households of vulnerable Australians,” she said.
“We don’t want a continuation of the current situation, where food waste is costing the economy $20 billion dollars and nutritious food that is perfectly edible is going to landfill instead of to the people that so desperately need it.
“So we are incredibly hopeful that this CRC will act as a catalyst for change and really help us identify opportunities to both reduce waste but also to tackle food insecurity.”