Over 1 million Australian children, and 1 in 6 adults, went hungry over the past year, a confronting new report that uncovers the harsh reality of the nation’s food crisis has revealed.
The annual Foodbank Hunger Report — released in the middle of Anti-Poverty Week — shows the pandemic’s impact has had implications well beyond just health, with COVID-19-led job losses and lockdowns, as well as the rollback of the government’s coronavirus supplement, making adequate food access “more difficult than ever.”
Foodbank Australia CEO Brianna Casey said the pandemic has driven home “how easy it is for people to become vulnerable.”
"Food relief is not only being sought out by those who are homeless and unemployed, but working families, refugees, single parents, school leavers, First Nations People and many more,” Casey explained. “When the global pandemic hit, it radically transformed our day-to-day reality, bringing unexpected challenges and suffering and exacerbating existing societal issues.”
Casey explained that almost 40% of Australians who went hungry last year had never experienced food insecurity before, highlighting that while those already struggling have been hit even harder, others found themselves “fighting to pay the bills, feed their family and keep the lights on for the first time in their lives.”
Who is going hungry in our country?— Foodbank Australia (@FoodbankAus) October 19, 2021
The Foodbank Hunger Report 2021 reveals 1 in 6 adults in Australia haven't had enough to eat in the last year and even more shockingly, 1.2 million children have gone hungry.https://t.co/ZIkM6kMpXM#ZeroHungerpic.twitter.com/sOgKhiDFmN
The report, which surveyed close to 3,000 Australians online in July 2021, likewise showed that more than half of all individuals who were classified as “severely impacted by food insecurity” go a whole day every week without eating. Shockingly, the report also revealed that food insecurity impacts more people with jobs than without.
For those with jobs, unexpected expenses and large bills were to blame for food shortages.
"I left a domestic violence marriage about eight years ago … and I find that with minimal formal education, and my age, I am only eligible for casual low paying jobs. I take as many extra hours as I can get, but I feel as though I'm always going backwards,” a Queensland single mum, who preferred not to be named, said in the report. “I have zero savings, and when a bigger bill comes in, the only thing I can do is cut down on eating because there's nothing else I can cut down on.”
Foodbank, which provides food relief to over 1 million people per month, has joined Anti-Poverty Week campaigners in calling on the government to address food insecurity and aid those doing it tough. While Casey acknowledged that significant financial support was provided amid the pandemic, she said much more, including additional research, was required, according to the Guardian.
Anti-Poverty Week supporters, meanwhile, have two key asks of the federal government: Raise income support above the poverty line and invest in social housing. By doing so, experts expect over 3 million Australians could be empowered to pull themselves out from under the poverty line.