Foodbank tackles food insecurity in Australia

By Nichola Murphy
Wednesday, 22 November, 2017

People living in third-world countries often suffer from hunger due to war, crop failures and natural disasters, but despite Australia being considered as a ‘lucky country’, hunger still affects many Australians.

Australia’s largest hunger relief organisation, Foodbank, has welcomed the launch of the country’s first-ever National Food Waste Strategy, which has been launched to address the $20 billion food waste problem and aims to halve wastage by 2030. But Foodbank is also calling on the federal government to address rising rates of food insecurity by developing a National Food Insecurity Strategy.

“A food waste strategy is long overdue, but we are concerned that it appears to lack the necessary funding to ensure rapid implementation. Nevertheless, it is a great first step in reducing the amount of perfectly edible food that is wasted, particularly given this country’s worrying food insecurity problem,” said Foodbank CEO Brianna Casey.

The Foodbank Hunger Report found that 15% Australians (3.6 million people) have suffered from food insecurity over the past year. This was defined as being uncertain about where their next meal would come from. Even more surprising was the people who were affected, as almost half of respondents who claimed they were food insecure (48%) were employed in some way.

For many, the problem was not maintaining a job and having an income, but individuals or families whose income was not high enough to guarantee they could afford both bills and food. Those living on a low income are not conventional sufferers of food insecurity but they are actually the most common group that Foodbank’s agencies assist (81%). After them are those struggling with unemployment (64%), homelessness (39%) and substance abuse (19%).

Australia produces a sufficient amount of produce to feed its population, but much of it is exported and 9 million tonnes is wasted, leading Casey to question “How can it be that we produce enough food in Australia to feed approximately 60 million people, yet 3.6 million Australians were food insecure last year?”

Foodbank argues hunger should not be a problem affecting Australia, but the real issue may be ensuring food is directed to the people who need it most and focusing more efforts on preventing food insecurity and waste. This is why it is hoping the federal government will extend its scope to food insecurity as well as food waste and complement its recent implementation of the National Food Waste Strategy.

Foodbank works closely with farmers, manufacturers and retailers to source food to help Australians in need. Every year, the farm sector donates large volumes of fresh produce to Foodbank which is often first-grade as opposed to produce that fails to meet cosmetic standards. Last year this included 112,000 kg of unprocessed and manufactured rice and grain products, 1.2 million L of fresh milk, 196,000 kg of meat, 5.8 million kg of fruit and vegetables, and 112,000 kg of eggs.

“We are so grateful to our farm sector and the food and grocery industry for their ongoing commitment to helping everyday Australians who are going through tough times, helping Foodbank tackle both food insecurity and food waste,” Casey said.

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