SPIRALLING costs of seeing a doctor, getting medicine and technology for kids in the classroom are pushing thousands of south-west families to the brink.
Charities say the impact of the St Patrick’s Day fires is also still being felt, resulting in short or long-term assistance provided to over 2100 families and 1100 breakfasts to those who could not afford to eat in the last year.
Food relief provider Foodbank and Anglicare Victoria say the Foodback Hunger Report shows they provided 7725 kilograms of food to struggling families via the Anglicare Warrnambool relief centre. An additional 63,172kg was delivered to Warrnambool and District Foodshare for distribution to other local charities.
The charities say the food insecurity crisis is particularly acute in regional and remote areas with people living in the country 33 per cent more likely to go hungry than those living in capital cities. The report also revealed almost one in five Australians had run out of food in the last 12 months and were unable to buy more.
“The number of adults and families supported over the last few years has grown considerably, and their needs have become more complex and demanding,” Louise Serra, Community Development Co-ordinator of Anglicare Victoria in Warrnambool said.
“In particular, the high costs associated with the need for technology for education and personal health costs such as medical bills and appointments. It is important to remember that the area is still in recovery mode after the St Patrick’s Day bushfires and the Dairy Crisis.
“The Emergency Relief Centre in Warrnambool and Mortlake offers a range of support to those in need. People are welcome to access a staple food pack, fruit and vegetable hampers and meat vouchers on a tailored support plan over a 12-month period, or longer if circumstance dictates.”
Foodbank Victoria CEO Dave McNamara said many charities were under strain from increased demand and lack of resources.
“We’ve got more people struggling to make ends meet and when times are tough, food becomes discretionary. People are going hungry in order to pay their bills. Children are going without food,” he said.
“The fact that this is happening in the ‘lucky country’ is shocking for some, but a reality for far too many. We need policies that better support our most vulnerable and this includes food security and equal access to healthy food.”
Additionally, the report found almost three in five food insecure Australians spent more than 20 per cent of their total household income on food (compared to 10 per cent for the average household). At least once a week, 54 per cent of those surveyed skipped meals and 26 per cent went an entire day without eating at all.
The report also revealed some of the impacts of food insecurity – declining mental health, lethargy and feelings of shame. While more food insecure Australians were seeking food relief from charities, only 40 per cent of people felt they could talk to friends and family about their situation.