A new study has found at least five per cent of Australian households (1.15 million) are struggling to feed their families, and it’s not just a problem in rural and remote Australia, as many city-living Australians are also falling well under par with healthy eating.
Analysis of the 2004/2005 National Health Survey data on 20,000 Australian households revealed that many Australians living in cities and towns are surprisingly affected by food insecurity, with many unable to afford basic healthy staples, such as fruit and vegetables.
According to the findings, city-living Australians who were food insecure were 34 per cent less likely to eat the national recommended serves of fruit, and 23 per cent less likely to get three or more servings of vegetables.
Rebecca Ramsey, who is presenting the findings this week at the Dietitians Association of Australia’s National Conference, also looked at some of the issues affecting access to food in rural, remote and urban households around the country.
The study found unemployment was more strongly linked with food insecurity in urban households compared to rural, whilst low income earners were more likely to struggle for food in rural areas compared to urban.
‘It is not just Australians living in remote parts of this country who are doing it tough when it comes to buying healthy food. It’s a sad reality that many Australians living in major cities and towns are also battling to afford to feed their families.’
Dr Ramsey said the ongoing fight for food can have a devastating effect on families and children. ‘Those who cannot afford or access healthy food are more likely to be underweight or overweight, and are more at risk of diseases like diabetes, and heart disease,’ said Dr Ramsey.
Australia’s largest hunger relief organisation Foodbank, reports 70 per cent of welfare agencies are experiencing an increase in the number of people seeking food, with 1 in 10 reporting a 30 per cent jump in the last year. And low income families are the largest group seeking food support.
DAA CEO, Claire Hewat says, all Australians deserve access to healthy, affordable food. The Association says it will continue to work with Foodbank and other organisations to help address food insecurity among disadvantaged Australians.
For further information or to organise an interview contact Holly Smith, Dietitians Association of Australia on 0408 482 581.
Rebecca Ramsey’s research was undertaken through Queensland University of Technology, Brisbane.
Other interesting findings from this research include:
- Australians who were food insecure were more likely to suffer from general anxiety disorders compared to those who were food secure.
- Australians from rural and remote areas who were food insecure were more likely to report being diagnosed with conditions such as type two diabetes and high cholesterol compared to food insecure Australians who live in urban or city areas.
The DAA National Conference is being held from May 23-25 at the National Convention Centre, Canberra. For more information and program details, visit: http://arinex.com.au/dietitians2013/program/ and follow us on Twitter: @DAAConf2013 #30DAA.
Five healthy eating tips for budget-conscious families:
- Buy in bulk. Buy large volumes of health staples such as rice, pasta, yoghurt and cereal. Less packaging generally means less expense for the grocery buyer.
- Choose staples first. Buy core foods first, such as breads/cereals, fruit, vegetables, dairy and meat. Avoid extras such as soft drinks and confectionary.
- Buy in season. Buy fruit and vegetables in season to cut down on cost. Frozen fruits and vegetables are also healthy choices.
- Cook in bulk. If you are cooking for two, double the recipe and put the rest in the freezer. Cooking in bulk saves time, money, and lessens the temptation to buy takeaway.
- Do some homework. Compare prices of your usual ticket items between stores. Check the catalogues to grab a bargain.
Source: Dietitians Association of Australia.