This year’s report combines insights from charities and community groups across Australia providing food relief as well as individual Australians who experience food insecurity. Two surveys were used to collect these insights. The first was the Foodbank Welfare Agency Survey which explored the charities and community groups that provide front-line food relief, their food provision activities and the beneficiaries of their services. In its fifth year, this survey captured responses from 1,123 agencies between December 2016 and July 2017.
The second survey was aimed at understanding the Australians who have experienced food insecurity in the last 12 months. This is the second time Foodbank has conducted research amongst those directly affected by the issue of food insecurity. The aim of the survey was to understand the characteristics of these individuals, as well as the key drivers and resulting impacts of food insecurity in their lives. The survey identified 511 people who had experienced food insecurity in the last 12 months. The survey was in field from 31 July to 7 August.
Despite our reputation as the “lucky country” the issue of hunger exists in Australia but is largely going unnoticed.
The reality is that 3.6 million Australians (15%) have experienced food insecurity at least once in the last 12 months, with three in five of these individuals experiencing food insecurity at least once a month. Food insecurity impacts a wide range of groups in the community, and is not restricted to the unemployed or homeless. In fact, almost half of food insecure Australians (48%) are employed in some way, whether full-time, part-time or casually. Our youngest members of the community are also impacted, as dependent children live in 40% of food insecure households. Nine out of 10 children (89%) in these circumstances are under the age of 12. When it comes to accessing food assistance, more than a quarter of recipients (27%) are children.
For South Australia, Foodbank have seen a 21% increase in the requirement for food relief, with now more than 102,000 South Australians accessing food relief every month.
The report shows how easy it is for someone to fall into food insecurity, given the rising cost of living. Financial demands, including bills, rent and mortgage repayments cause stress for many Australians.
Financial pressures create difficult choices, such as choosing between heating and eating. Two in five food insecure Australians (41%) have not paid bills in order to have enough money to buy food. The experience of food insecurity is incredibly challenging and can cause a significant decline in quality of life for individuals and families. Skipping meals in these instances is quite common, and 28% of food insecure Australians report going for an entire day without eating in times where they have run out of food. This lack of food has several impacts, including lethargy (42%), declining mental health (38%) and loss of confidence (35%). More than half of food insecure Australians feel depressed (53%) and stressed (52%) in circumstances where they cannot afford to buy food. In times of food scarcity, Australians are most likely to turn to friends or family rather than seek assistance from a charity or community group. The 46% who have sought assistance from a charity in the last 12 months, however, report many benefits including being better able to concentrate (36%) and improved physical health (33%). Significantly, more than four out of five recipients of food relief (83%) say the benefits of receiving food assistance made a difference in their life for a week or more, and 8% stated it made a long-term, lasting improvement to their life.
Foodbank South Australia’s figures
More than 102,000
people rely on Foodbank South Australia’s services every month