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The prevalence, severity and experience of food insecurity in Australia: an investigation of food aid use
journal contributionposted on 2020-11-01, 00:00 authored by Fiona McKayFiona McKay, B C Haines, H Beswick, Hayley MckenzieHayley Mckenzie, Rebecca LindbergRebecca Lindberg
High costs of living and low wage growth in Australia have resulted in an increase in the number of people experiencing food insecurity, and a corresponding increase in the number of people accessing food aid. This research employs qualitative methods alongside standard methods to explore food security to investigate these issues in food aid settings in Victoria, Australia. The two aims of this study were, 1) to explore the profile of people who access food aid and 2) to explore the experiences of people accessing food aid. A convenience sample of people was recruited from organisations that distribute food aid from across the state. People in need of food aid typically self-refer to charities, who then apply varied and localised criteria to manage access to the charitable service. Interviews were conducted with 78 participants between June 2018 and January 2019. Participants had been accessing food aid for 4 years on average (SD 5.7, range 1 month—40 years), most participants were female (n = 57, 73.1%), with an average age of 52.6 years (SD 15.9), and over half were born in Australia (n = 44, 56.4%). Most participants were in receipt of a government welfare payment (n = 75, 96.2%), and over 40% were living in private rental accommodation. Around two thirds of participants reported low or very low food security (n = 54, 67.5%). Participants reported a range of both positive and negative experiences accessing food aid. This study adds to the body of literature exploring food insecurity in high-income settings and its persistence despite significant national economic prosperity. Current economic and political conditions in Australia mean that the reliance on food aid by welfare recipients is unlikely to decrease.