1.2 million children going hungry

1.2 million children going hungry

By Paul O’Rourke

More than 1.2 million Australian children and twice as many adults are regularly going hungry, according to the latest report into the nation’s worsening food insecurity problem.

Foodbank’s annual Hunger Report, released last week as part of Anti-Poverty Week, suggests the number of people going hungry in Australia has increased around five per cent from 13% to 18% (one-in-six adults) since the coronavirus welfare supplement and jobkeeper payments were withdrawn.

The findings come from research conducted by McCrindle, which surveyed nearly 3000 people over four stages in July this year.

The findings are consistent with a UTAS report

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which showed almost one-in-five Tasmanians (around 100,000) were food insecure, three times the rate of food insecurity before COVID-19

The Foodbank report found 17% of respondents could be “categorised as being severely food insecure,” meaning they have “multiple disruptions to their eating patterns and are forced to reduce their food intake”.

“These individuals and families are often forced to eat smaller meals to make the food last longer or skip meals altogether,” the report said.

The report used these findings to estimate that 1.2 million children in Australia were living in “food insecure households.”

Poor diet affects mental health

Hunger and poor nutrition also have severe impacts on mental health.

Director of Deakin University’s Food and Mood Centre, Professor Felice Jacka OAM told Sydney’s Daily Telegraph that a poor quality diet imposed an increased risk for mental health problems “right from the start of life.”

“The true cost of our poor food environment is even larger than thus far calculated,” she said.

A level one investigator with the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC), Professor Jacka said poverty and disadvantage were already key risk factors for mental health problems and families experiencing food insecurity often relied on cheap industrialised food products.

“This represents a double whammy to the risk for mental health problems across the life-course,” she said. “Ensuring access to inexpensive healthful foods … is likely to yield substantial benefits in the form of prevention of both mental and physical health problems. Food policies to support this aim are essential, yet currently lacking.”

Other worrying statistics from the Foodbank report include:

64% of food insecure Australians have a job.

Half of those who are food insecure go a whole day every week without food.

A third of those who are food insecure are experiencing hunger for the first time in their lives.

Causes of hunger include:

Having to pay a large bill

Low income

Unemployment or underemployment

Sickness and disability