One in five young Australians has experienced food insecurity

Monash University

New research from Monash University reveals that food insecurity is a significant issue for many young Australians. A national survey conducted by the Centre for Youth Policy and Education Practice (CYPEP) found one in five young Australians has experienced food insecurity in the last two years. Further, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people, and young people with a disability are more likely to experience food insecurity. Food insecurity occurs when young Australians lack social, economic and physical access to food that meets their dietary needs and food preferences, preventing them from leading a healthy and active life. At a time when cost of living pressures are rising, this national survey paints a dark picture of the experiences and realities of food insecurity for young people. “The findings of this report are striking because they show that as many as one in five young people have been struggling to regularly access nutritious food, or have been going without entirely. Access to food is a human right,” says the report’s lead author Dr Cathy Waite, who called upon governments to do more. “This is not good enough. Governments and policy-makers should be prepared to assist young people in times of immense uncertainty and disruption. The findings highlight the need for local wrap-around solutions to food insecurity that can cater for people with diverse cultural and ability needs.” The Centre for Youth Policy and Education Practice surveyed 505 young Australians nationally and undertook in-depth interviews with more than 30 to examine food insecurity experienced by young people in Australia today. The survey finds that financial stability, employment and where young people live are key factors in experiencing food insecurity, a situation amplified by the pandemic. Among the key findings of those who experienced food insecurity in 2021:

  • 75.8 per cent experienced financial difficulties

  • 35.2 per cent were out of work but looking for a job

  • 50.5 per cent reported that very often the food they wanted to buy was not available in their suburb or town

  • 38.5 per cent reported their mental health was significantly impacted by COVID-19

Secure access to nutritious and available food is a human right, but food security is a multifaceted problem that is invisible among Australia’s youth population.

The issue of food insecurity is often hidden because of the stigma associated with not being able to access sufficient food.

Food insecurity is also important because it is connected to wider challenges experienced by young people, such as serious adverse health outcomes and depression, exclusion and isolation, limited study and workforce productivity.

Co-author, Professor Lucas Walsh, said: “This report uniquely shines a light on young people who not only struggle to access healthy food, but on those who struggle to get food at all. With current costs of living going up, we can expect this situation to get worse. Increasingly, young people are having to choose between electricity or eating.”

“It may surprise some readers that in a supposedly prosperous country, young people from a wide variety of backgrounds experience food insecurity at various points of their lives,” he said.

The report is co-authored by Dr Catherine Waite, Dr Beatriz Gallo Cordoba, Professor Lucas Walsh, Dr Masha Mikola and Blake Cutler from the Centre for Youth Policy and Education Practice, Faculty of Education, Monash University.

Read the report here: https://doi.org/10.26180/20128370

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