Leading health organisations are calling for greater efforts to overcome food insecurity with new research from the Bureau of Statistics showing food shortages within Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.
PHAA CEO Michael Moore said: "Food is a basic human right for everyone. Yet the data shows that food insecurity is dependent on where you live in Australia.”
The Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Survey highlights that more than one in five Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander households ran out of food and were unable to buy more. This figure reveals this is six times that of non-Indigenous people.
Australian Red Cross manager Melissa Gibson said “These findings are troubling.”
The survey’s report also shows that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander remote communities are more likely than those in non-remote areas to be living in a household that had run out of food and could not afford to buy more (31% compared with 20%).
“This is staggering evidence of food inequity in Australia. Australians who are most likely to suffer food insecurity are low-income earners, the underemployed, less educated, and living in remote areas. In a country as rich as Australia these results are unacceptable.” Moore explained.
Australian Red Cross, the Public Health Association, and the Dietitians Association of Australia (DAA) have joined forces to express deep concern at the new figures and what this means for the health and wellbeing of individuals, families, and communities across Australia.
“Red Cross are alert to this growing problem. It’s a complex issue that we must face together for any chance to effectively close the gap,” Gibson said.
“The evidence also shows that Indigenous Australians are disproportionately affected. Traditionally Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people got their food from local and sustainable sources that were extremely high in nutritional value. This was then significantly disrupted by white settlement and continues to be,” Moore said.
DAA CEO Claire Hewat says the differences in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and non-Indigenous communities being able to access nutritious food has a huge impact on overall health.
“While this data shows the average overall energy intake for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander men and women appears to fall within normal levels, we’re concerned about the diet quality,” said Hewat.
“For instance, fruit and vegetable intake is lower in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, and discretionary foods and drinks – those with very little nutritional value – make up 41 per cent of total energy intake.”
PHAA CEO Michael Moore said: " We know that food costs more in rural, regional, and remote communities, and healthy food - such as fresh fruit and vegetables - is particularly expensive compared to in major Australian cities.”
The peak bodies are calling on government, businesses and community members to play their part in acknowledging that more work needs to be done to close the gap at this most basic level – access to food.
They say improvements in food security and nutrition are essential to improving life expectancy in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, and urgently require further resourcing to address the food insecurity issues highlighted in these latest survey results.