It seems so unfair that in many agricultural areas of the state that grow the food for the rest of us, there are a significant amount of people experiencing food insecurity.
Foodbank Australia’s recently released Hunger Report of 2018 reports that four million Australians have experienced food insecurity in the past 12 months. Concurringly for us, the same report also points to a huge spike in the number of regional and remote Australians who are unable to get the food they need to thrive through hard times. The statistics as they relate to country areas are sobering: regional and remote people are 33 per cent more likely to experience food insecurity than those living in major and capital cities. This means more than 1.5 million country Australians have experienced food insecurity in the last year.
Food insecurity can have a multitude of causes, living in a regional or remote areas poses extra challenges though as it often means it is harder to access food simply from a logistical point of view. The Hunger Report 2018 states that one in six people living in the country (17pc) suggest they don’t have easy access to food shops compared to one in 10 (10pc) in the city.
Food insecurity issues impact so many aspects of people’s lives. Apart from the obvious (being hungry) there are stress related impacts, mental health related impacts, embarrassment, reduced ability to work or participate in school effectively and a loss of self-reliance, which country people pride themselves on.
In light of these compelling statistics, we were surprised to see recent funding ill-informed decisions that threatened the very viability of Foodbank into the future. Thankfully those decisions were reversed as a result of some serious lobbying and advocacy work undertaken by Foodbank itself but also pleasingly, the National Farmers’ Federation.
White Cliffs CWA with the aid of Foodbank NSW is endeavouring to put staples on the table in the Far West NSW in the lead up to Christmas and I know that this is being done in other parts of the state as well. The positive impact that the provision of carefully tailored hampers into drought affected communities cannot be underestimated. Items of assistance are carefully thought through to provide the most needed items and consultation takes place with local food suppliers to ensure that people are informed and comfortable with outside goods coming.
We were also pleased to see the Victorian state government commit to a significant expansion of its school breakfast program and call on the NSW government to do the same. Numerous CWA members across NSW are already involved in this important initiative which demonstrably increases school attendance and performance.
Only an overarching strategy that takes into account the multiple and often overlapping causes of food security, with associated and proven solutions to match can combat this problem in the future.