Hun­gry Aussies are fed up

Bills, drought force mil­lions to seek food hand­outs

The Sunday Mail (Queensland) - - NEWS - PE­TER HALL

SURG­ING liv­ing costs and a pro­longed drought have led to a stag­ger­ing 4 mil­lion Aus­tralians seek­ing food hand­outs in the past 12 months – 424,000 more than 2017.

Stark new fig­ures in the 2018 Food­bank Hunger Re­port, to be re­leased to­day, show re­gional and ru­ral ar­eas have been hard­est hit, and the de­mand is so great that tens of thou­sands of peo­ple can’t be helped.

Big bills, such as elec­tric­ity, re­duced in­come, and un­ex­pected ex­penses linked to job losses, health is­sues, re­la­tion­ship break­downs and cars top the list of rea­sons peo­ple seek help to put food on the ta­ble.

Food­bank, the largest hunger re­lief or­gan­i­sa­tion in Aus­tralia, con­ducts sur­veys that mea­sure “food in­se­cu­rity’’ – when peo­ple can’t al­ways af­ford to eat so they skip or re­duce the size and fre­quency of meals, some­times for weeks on end. Some par­ents forgo food so their chil­dren can eat.

Food­bank Queens­land chief ex­ec­u­tive Michael Rose said all around Aus­tralia there were peo­ple who didn’t know where their next meal was com­ing from.

He said the hunger re­port re­vealed that in the past fi­nan­cial year, more than 4 mil­lion peo­ple – 18 per cent of the pop­u­la­tion – had, at some point, run out of food and been un­able to buy more .

Mr Rose said the char­i­ties and com­mu­nity groups that worked with Food­bank pro­vided re­lief to 710,000 Aus­tralians ev­ery month, 26 per cent of whom were un­der 19.

“In Queens­land, we are now help­ing al­most 200,000 peo­ple each month with the help of 281 agen­cies,” he said, adding that 50,550 peo­ple na­tion­wide – 12,400 of them in Queens­land – could not be helped due to the over­whelm­ing de­mand.

He said a trend in the lat­est snap­shot was that re­gional and ru­ral ar­eas, par­tic­u­larly in Queens­land and NSW, were strug­gling more than their city coun­ter­parts. Al­most 1.5 mil­lion in re­gional and ru­ral ar­eas had re­quired help.

Mr Rose said this could be at­trib­uted to the loss of in­come caused by the drought and its knock-on ef­fects.

“The lat­est re­port shows Aus­tralians liv­ing in re­gional and re­mote ar­eas are 33 per cent more likely to ex­pe­ri­ence food in­se­cu­rity than those liv­ing in cities,’’ he said.

Food­bank col­lects food do­nated by farm­ers, su­per­mar­kets and man­u­fac­tur­ers to dis­trib­ute 5.5 mil­lion meals per month through char­i­ties and schools. To help, go to food­bank.org.au.

ON COURSE: Matt Gil­lett, Wally Lewis and Gene Miles are poised for some golf­ing ac­tion. Pic­ture: Adam Head

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