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The number of Australians seeking food relief has jumped 22% in the past 12 months, a new report has revealed. 

The 2019 Foodbank Hunger Report, released on Sunday by Australia’s largest food relief organization, Foodbank, showed that one in five Australians went hungry at least once over the past year.

The report explained the ongoing drought, unexpected bills, housing payments, and an increasingly inadequate welfare system were responsible for the unprecedented spike.

“At least once a week, around half of these people skip a meal or cut down on the size of their meals to make their food go further,” the report states. “At least once a week, three in 10 food insecure Australians go a whole day without eating.”

The report is an accumulation of a survey of 2,089 charities across Australia that source food from the food rescue sector and an online survey of 1,002 Australians who had experienced food insecurity — where an individual runs out of food and is unable to buy more — in the last 12 months. 

While food relief requests rose by 22%, only 37% of surveyed charities confirmed they could “meet the full needs of the people they assist.” The increased need for food relief stemmed primarily from the Northern Territory, up 27%, and Victoria and Queensland, up 25% and 24%, respectively. 

The report also highlighted that women bear the brunt of food insecurity — with 27% of women going without compared to 18% of men. 

Foodbank Australia CEO Brianna Casey said that the causes of food insecurity in women are typically different from those of men, and that she expects the gender imbalance to only get worse.

"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,” she told Australian news publication Women’s Agenda. “This problem is clearly not going away. In fact, its impact on the health and wellbeing of our communities is only going to amplify.” 

Over half of all women experiencing food insecurity have been subjected to domestic violence, compared to 32% of men, according to the report. It also shows that women experiencing food insecurity are much more likely than men to have been a single parent for an extended period, at 49% against 28%. 

Half of all Australian women who have experienced food insecurity have also found themselves unable to purchase other basic items, like menstrual hygiene products. 

Casey is using the report to call on the federal government to increase Australia’s income support payment system and develop a national “whole-of-government” food security strategy. 

"What is required is a long-term, whole-of-government plan to tackle this crisis head-on,” she said. “We are calling for a commitment to introduce a National Food Security Strategy to ensure we achieve zero hunger in this country by 2030.”


Defeat Poverty

The Number of Australians in Need of Food Relief Spikes 22% in a Year: Report

By Madeleine Keck