Charities stretched beyond capacity as hunger crisis takes hold
3 October 2019 at 8:00 am
Western Australian charities are struggling to cope with growing and entrenched demand for food relief, according to new research outlining possible solutions to the state’s hunger crisis.
The Food Relief Framework report, launched on Thursday, maps demand for food relief, identifies systemic gaps that are leaving people hungry, and explains how organisations can ensure everyone has access to healthy and nutritious food.
The report said the charity sector was under equipped to deal with a 39 per cent spike in people seeking food relief from 2017 to 2018.
It also noted that people were relying on charity food for 7.5 years on average, highlighting a lack of pathways out of food insecurity.
The Western Australian Council of Social Service (WACOSS) led the two-year project underpinning the report, and acting CEO Dr Jennie Gray told Pro Bono News food relief groups were struggling.
“Despite their very best efforts, services are stretched well and truly beyond their capacity, making it really hard for services to meet their growing demand,” Gray said.
“And it’s beyond their remit to address some of these more structural problems as well.”
Gray said food insecurity was the responsibility of everyone and required the commitment of all sectors.
“We really need to move beyond the philanthropic and not-for-profit sectors where relief has traditionally been provided from,” she said.
“We need to look for opportunities to better partner with corporates and we need government leadership to address this as well.”
An estimated one in four people in WA experience some level of food insecurity, with the charitable food sector providing more than 500,000 meals to Western Australians each month.
Recent research also found more than 80 per cent of disadvantaged families in Perth could not afford to buy healthy food for their children.
The report said the issue was exacerbated by major gaps across WA in transport logistics and infrastructure resources between food rescue and food relief groups.
Researchers recommended incentivising corporate businesses to use their logistics infrastructure for the storage and transportation of charity food.
The framework also features a Food Stress Index, which can geographically map food demand across the state and offers a basic estimate of what is needed for food relief.
The WA government has thrown its support behind the report, with Premier Mark McGowan committing to host a Food Relief Roundtable, and encouraging everyone from producers to researchers to have their say on the issue.
Leela James, a project coordinator at WACOSS, said the report recognised what good practice looked like when it came to the delivery of charity food.
“Not only is this a report that explored the issues and identified solutions, it also gave many people who rely on charity food a platform to be heard about their experiences and [explained] the critical importance of their involvement in designing, implementing and evaluating charity food services,” James said.