Tasmanian hunger hits record number

The number of Tasmanians skipping meals has tripled in 18 months, according to the latest UTAS study.

Hunger, or food insecurity, has doubled to one-in-two Tasmanians who are now struggling to afford the food they need as cost-of-living pressures further gouge household food budgets.

That’s 280,000 Tasmanians whose responses range from cutting out meat and fresh fruit and vegetables, to skipping meals, sometimes for days, and resorting to buying food on credit.

The doubling in the number of Tasmanians experiencing food stress has occurred between May 2021 and October 2022, according to the latest findings of the UTAS Tasmania Project Cost of Living Survey

Youth, single-parent families hit hard

Hardest hit are youth 18-24, single-parent families, migrants, those with disabilities and those of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander descent.

Worryingly, only 10 percent of those who are struggling have sought help from agencies such as Loaves and Fishes Tasmania.

Offensive figures

Loaves and Fishes CEO Andrew Hillier said the latest figures were shocking in a State which grows so much fresh produce. The gross need offends him as a Tasmanian and a Christian.

“Jesus would be mortified and disappointed at the number of people going hungry in a state that grows so much fresh food,” he said.

“But he would also be front and centre in helping to feed those who were hungry as he did when he walked the earth.”

Andrew, on behalf of Loaves and Fishes, is part of a food coalition established to substantially reduce hunger. The coalition is tasked with helping to implement the State Government’s Food Relief to Resilience Strategy.

“I’m so proud to be part of a coalition where organisations put aside their own agendas and make sacrifices to solve the problem of so many Tasmanians needlessly going hungry,” he said.

A key component of the coalition’s “Have you eaten well today?” campaign is drawing attention to where those who are missing meals can access food relief. Andrew says 90% of hungry Tasmanians don’t know how to access food relief.

Cost-of-living increases, from mortgage and rent payments, to food, power and fuel are forcing more of the middle class and upper middle class into poverty and hunger.

Andrew says some of the “new hungry” need temporary help, while many others are experiencing entrenched disadvantage and need long term support.

Innovative solutions to hunger

“We are trying to take innovative approaches to community problems.

“Part of the solution is highlighting the enormous need and encouraging Tasmanians to love their neighbour.

“We also need to create a portal where Tasmanians can find local help, and then increase the number of place-based food distribution channels, such as in schools, sporting clubs, businesses and service clubs.

“Tasmanians need to know what’s in season and how to cook what they get to make nutritious and tasty meals.”

This month, the State Government announced an extra $2 million over two years in support of the Food Relief to Resilience Action Plan, including a $400,000 grant to Loaves and Fishes Tasmania.

By Paul O'Rourke

(published 21/04/23)