A Growing Number of Australians Are Going Hungry
“It's not people on the street; it's people in your street."
Australia, commonly known as "the lucky country," has such an abundance of food that the nation exports over half of all produce.
And yet, there are millions of Australians who go hungry every day.
More than 3 million Australians — including 1 in 5 children — have been "food insecure" in the last 12 months, a national report from Australia’s largest hunger relief organisation, Foodbank, revealed.
The Foodbank 'Rumbling Tummies: Child Hunger in Australia' report surveyed 1,002 Australian parents with children under the age of 15 and a further 602 parents living in "food insecure" households — homes that lacked reliable access to a sufficient quantity of affordable, nutritious food.
#foodinsecurity by the numbers. Here are our latest #Foodbank Hunger Report stats on how many have experienced food insecurity, why, where and what we do to help. #insightsbspic.twitter.com/REbmr13qSI— Brianna Casey (@briannacasey1) July 10, 2018
“The biggest challenge as a nation right now is acknowledging that here in the lucky country we've got 3.6 million Australians in the last 12 months who were food insecure,” CEO of Foodbank Brianna Casey stated on this week's Insight episode, 'Hunger,' on SBS. “That is not OK in the lucky country. The demand for food relief in this country right now is skyrocketing.”
A couple named Renee and Grant revealed during the SBS program that they found themselves battling to afford groceries for their large family after Grant had an accident at work. Despite the assistance of community food programs, the cost of living meant the couple were forced to skip meals each week.
“It didn’t even enter our heads something like this could happen,” Renee stated, “not in Australia, anyway.”
Foodbank Victoria Chief Executive Dave McNamara announced the report revealed more children were going hungry in Australia than adults.
"We've heard stories of kids turning up [to school] with packets of chips and Coke. That was their breakfast and lunch," he said. “No one's spared. It's not people on the street; it's people in your street. It's in every community across Australia."
Collin Peebles, chief executive of the Geelong Food Relief Centre, backed the report, revealing the demand for food services had significantly escalated over the past three years.
"Only recently we had a 7-year-old girl walk into the food bank on a Thursday afternoon, she hadn't eaten anything for five days," he told the ABC.
It takes courage to speak publicly about personal struggles. Thank you to Cindy, Jonathon, Harry, Jack, Kurt, Sunita, Toni, Renee, Grant, Kelsie, Kat and Audrey for sharing your experiences with hunger on @insightSBS this week. #insightsbs#hungerhttps://t.co/DeP5wlfaDK— Foodbank Australia (@FoodbankAus) July 13, 2018
With the growing number of Australians going hungry, charities, schools, and food rescue organisations have increased efforts to help provide meals for those who would otherwise go without.
Foodbank currently sources and supplies 1.2 million meals each week for Australian families and individuals. The company, however, is forced to turn away 65,000 people each month due to a lack of resources. The increasing number of hungry Australians has been linked primarily to the constant rising cost of living, with the main culprits being exorbitant gas and electricty prices, cost of telecommunications, and housing affordability.
Casey stated the efforts of food rescue organisations were like “putting a bandaid on a gaping wound” and called for immediate, significant government action.
“We need government leadership here,” she stated. “We need a long-term strategy that addresses the root causes of food security.”
Despite rising healthy food prices, wider gaps in household income, the nation’s growing reliance on food charities, and the government's commitment to halving food waste by 2030 — consistent with Target 12.3 of the UN Sustainable Development Goals — there is currently no Australian government policy that deals with domestic food security.
The lucky country? Maybe not for all.