It is not only very low-income families in Australia who experience food insecurity but low to middle-income families as well, according to latest research at Monash University.
Published in the Australian Journal of Primary Health, the study led by Sue Kleve from the Monash Department of Nutrition, Dietetics and Food reveals food insecurity exists in low to middle income Victorian households.
“Food insecurity is the limited or uncertain availability of individuals’ and households’ physical, social and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food,” said Accredited Practising Dietitian Ms Kleve, who is also a lecturer and PhD candidate at Monash University.
“Food insecurity affects health and wellbeing and our study shows that up to five per cent of the Victorian population is affected.”
Using data from the 2006-2009 Victorian Population Health Survey, the research team categorised respondents as food insecure if in the last 12 months they had run out of food and were unable to buy more.
Ms Kleve said the study found that between 4.9 and 5.5 per cent of the total survey population and 3.9 to 4.8 per cent of low to middle income households ($40,000-$80,000 per year) were food insecure.
“It’s concerning that food insecurity exists in households beyond those on a very low income, and for some, this is a weekly or fortnightly experience. Food insecurity is associated with negative health outcomes, including obesity, chronic disease, mental illness and social isolation in adults. However there is also the effect on children including poor general health and behavioural and academic issues.”
Ms Kleve said that food insecurity in low to middle income households was associated with limited help from friends, home ownership status, inability to raise money in an emergency and cost of some foods.
“This research highlights that there are some low to middle income Australians who do not have enough nutritious food to eat. There is a need for a range of responses to improve people’s access to nutritious food,” Ms Kleve said.