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Food Insecurity

Having access to affordable healthy food should be a right, not a privilege.

With the cost of living steadily rising in Australia, the daily challenge of consuming nutritious foods is getting harder. For many, the increased cost for essentials such as rent, mortgage, energy bills and petrol, can result in food becoming a discretionary expense. This means that many people may not have enough money to be able to afford adequate and nutritious food, resulting in an insecure and inadequate food supply.

What is food insecurity?

Food security means that everyone in our society has access to enough safe and nutritious food to meet their dietary needs and food preferences, and to give them the energy for an active and healthy life (Food and Agricultural Organization, 2012).

However, not everyone can afford or access enough healthy food. Food Insecurity exists whenever nutritionally adequate and safe foods are not easily available, or people face barriers to accessing healthy foods (Food and Agricultural Organization, 2012)

Examples of household food insecurity:

  • Running out of food before you have enough money to buy more
  • Not having enough money left after paying for living costs to afford enough healthy food
  • Relying on low-cost, packaged foods to avoid going hungry
  • Cutting down on fresh produce to avoid hunger
  • Using emergency food relief
  • Not having access to transport to buy fresh produce or healthy foods
  • Not being able to get to outlets selling healthy foods because of a disability or mobility issues.
  • Not being able to find foods that are familiar or culturally appropriate where you live.

Food insecurity and health

Healthy eating has far-reaching impacts on health and wellbeing and is a vital preventative measure for many chronic diseases.

Experiencing food insecurity impacts on the physical, mental and social health of both adults and children. Food insecurity has been shown to be associated with the following;

Adults:

  • Increased risk of malnutrition
  • Mental health problems
  • Diabetes, hypertension and hyperlipidaemia
  • Being in fair or poor health and poor sleep

Children:

  • Increased risk of some birth defects
  • Anaemia and malnutrition
  • Cognitive problems, anxiety and depression
  • Behavioural problems
  • Being hospitalised
  • Asthma

(Gundersen & Seligman, 2017)

Importantly, food insecurity impacts on a person’s capacity to participate fully in society and to experience optimal health and wellbeing, contributing to intergenerational cycles of poor health outcomes and inequities.

Local Food Insecurity Investigation

The South West Healthcare Health Promotion team spent 2022 investigating the experience of food insecurity in the Warrnambool Local Government Area.

Our results demonstrate the right to food is not upheld for everyone. Of the 122 people that completed our community food survey who live, learn, work or play in Warrnambool City Council

  • 27% had run out of food in the last 12 months
  • 34% had worried about running out of food
  • 51% of participants did not have enough of the kinds of food they wanted to eat, or not always enough food to eat.

To find out more about the affordability and accessibility of food locally, read our reports exploring food insecurity in the Warrnambool LGA.

Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations. (2012). Committee on World Food Security: Global Strategic Framework for Food Security and Nutrition, First Version.

Gundersen, C., & Seligman, H. K. (2017). Food insecurity and health outcomes. Economists’ Voice, 14(1), [20170004].

Page last updated: 23 November 2023

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