“Rent or Food?” Cruel Choice Grips WA as Cost of Living Crisis Spirals

Anna*, a single parent juggling two jobs, clutches her meagre grocery list: “Rent took everything this week. We’ll manage with noodles, but what about my kids?

Her story echoes through thousands of WA households, caught in a cruel vice of soaring rent and empty cupboards. The WACOSS Cost of Living Report shows that surging rent prices are pushing households, particularly those on fixed incomes and government support, to the brink.

388,000 households in our state went hungry this year, with over half of them holding down jobs,” said Kate O’Hara, CEO of Foodbank WA. “This isn’t about a lack of hard work or responsibility; it’s about a system that’s simply failing too many people.

Retailers like Coles and Woolworths are reporting record profits, however, the average single parent family has just $1.40 left over per week after meeting their estimated basic living costs.

Choosing between rent and groceries is a cruel ultimatum forcing people to prioritise survival over well-being. In a country with enough food to feed its entire population three times over, this is completely unacceptable,” said Ms O’Hara.

The Financial Wellbeing Collective, who provides support and services to those in financial hardship, have seen a surge in demand for its services as cost-of-living pressures mount across the community.

General Manager of the Financial Wellbeing Collective Helena Jakupovic says her team have experienced record numbers of people seeking emergency relief, food support and help to pay utility bills.

‘’Our Emergency Relief and Food Access Service received a record 3,761 calls in November – 700 more than November 2022. And for the first two weeks of December, we received a 52% increase in calls on the same time last year,” says Ms Jakupovic.

“What this tells us is that cost of living pressures are making it harder for people to afford necessities like food and utilities.”

This comes as no surprise to The Financial Wellbeing Collective, whose financial counselling clients are deemed to be in housing stress with the ratio of housing cost to income sitting at 38%. Anything over 30% is deemed as housing stress according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

Published: Wednesday, 3 January 2024


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About Foodbank WA

Hello, we’re Foodbank WA. We believe everyone should have access to good quality food. We’re here for the everyday Western Australians who are going without. And it’s our job to help change that.

We provide food and groceries to those who struggle to afford them. We also deliver nutrition education to promote healthy eating and advocate on behalf of people that experience hunger and food insecurity.

We are here to support Western Australians in times of need. We do this through

  • Providing 7.8 million meals last financial year to those who were doing it tough
  • Distributing food and groceries through 335 frontline charities
  • Providing breakfast and fruit to 501 schools feeding 22,000 children weekly
  • Delivering education programs for over 5,200 children, adults and parents

We work with farmers, wholesalers, manufactures and retailers who donate and redirect surplus product to us. This also plays a vital role in tackling food waste and positively contributes to climate change by reducing CO2 emissions arising from landfill.

Our vision is to end hunger in Western Australia by 2030. Our purpose is to Feed. Educate. Advocate.