• Foodbank Australia
    Foodbank Australia
  • Foodbank Australia
    Foodbank Australia
  • Foodbank Australia
    Foodbank Australia
  • Foodbank Australia
    Foodbank Australia
  • Foodbank Australia
    Foodbank Australia
  • Australians are feeling food insecurity right across the country. Source: Foodbank Hunger Report 2023
    Australians are feeling food insecurity right across the country. Source: Foodbank Hunger Report 2023
  • Foodbank Hunger Report 2023: Reasons for food insecurity.
    Foodbank Hunger Report 2023: Reasons for food insecurity.
Close×

This year’s annual Hunger Report by Foodbank Australia found 36 per cent of Australian households are experiencing food insecurity, with 77 per cent experiencing it for the first time.

“Food is the pressure valve for families doing it tough,” Foodbank Australia CEO Brianna Casey said. “It is the most likely item to be sacrificed to make ends meet.”

The report found 3.7 million households went hungry in the last 12 months, which is more than all the households in Sydney and Melbourne combined. That’s an increase of 383,000 more households than 2022.

Foodbank Hunger Report 2023: Food insecurity
Foodbank Hunger Report 2023: Food insecurity

Those struggling to put a meal on the table for the first time were more likely to be young, employed, or with a mid-high income. More than half (60 per cent) of food insecure households had someone in paid work.

Almost all (94 per cent) of food insecure households tried to mitigate cost-of-living pressures by reducing their spend on food and grocery items.

“The cost of the most basic of rights – food and shelter, is now the most common cause of food insecurity in Australia. 

Casey told Food & Drink Business, “This year’s Hunger Report has been absolutely remarkable in the familiarity people are experiencing when they read it. For the first time in more than a decade that we’ve been doing the report, people can see themselves in the stories.”

Casey said that in this year’s report, 79 per cent of food insecure households were due to the cost-of-living crisis.

“The cost of the most basic of rights – food and shelter, is now the most common cause of food insecurity in Australia. Mortgage interest rate rises and rent increases have been particularly called out this year. People are also struggling with higher utility bills as well as price increases on food and groceries.

“But we equally know that for people living in entrenched poverty, payments like job seeker or youth allowance are just not high enough.

Foodbank Hunger Report 2023: Reasons for food insecurity.
Foodbank Hunger Report 2023: Reasons for food insecurity.

“We are fast heading towards a reality where more than half the population will know what food insecurity is because they are experiencing it themselves. Almost one in two Australians have felt anxious about accessing adequate food or struggled to consistently access it. In a country where we produce enough food to feed our population three times over, this should not be happening,” Casey said.

While tactics include not eating out, looking for discounts, sales, or a cheaper alternative, nearly half said they were reducing their purchasing of fresh produce and protein. 

“We have an increasing number of people struggling to secure adequate food and the housing crisis is only exacerbating the problem, with half of all renters and a third of all mortgage holders being food insecure in the last 12 months,” she said.

Casey said it was important to look at all the underlying causes of food insecurity and recognise that hunger is a symptom of bigger issues at play: the real-life consequences of the cost-of-living crisis; government allowances not keeping pace; and housing and homelessness.

“But at the same time there must be action to ensure food relief organisations are resourced appropriately to be able to respond to the increased demand.”

How to ease the hunger

Casey pointed out that food relief must be incorporated into natural disaster preparedness and responsiveness, so in the case of a disaster, it doesn’t come at a cost to everyday food relief.

“We need to be able to service all sections of the community at all times, and we are going to need more food and grocery relief than ever before,” she said.

In May, Foodbank, OzHarvest, and SecondBite came together in response to the federal budget failing to allocate an additional $45 million to the sector.

Their call for the establishment of rapidly disbursable, stand-by funding to assist with natural disasters mitigation, preparedness, and resilience was also ignored.

At the time, Casey said, “It is galling that in a surplus budget no extra money could be found for food relief.”

Government inquiry into food security

There is a federal House of Representatives Standing Committee on Agriculture inquiry into food insecurity currently underway, which is looking at the subject largely through the farming and agricultural lens. For Foodbank and other food relief agencies, it is a must the inquiry also look at household insecurity.

Casey told Food & Drink Business that the definition of food insecurity by the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation is, “A person is food insecure when they lack regular access to enough safe and nutritious food for normal growth and development and an active and healthy life. This may be due to unavailability of food and/or lack of resources to obtain food”.

From Foodbank’s submission:

As such, this submission considers the supply chain (agriculture, manufacturing, transport infrastructure, retail etc); how food is produced, consumed, and exported; and issues such as reducing waste and minimising the impact of shocks to the supply chain ecosystem. The submission also considers what is influencing access to and availability of food for people in Australia, in particular those who are vulnerable.

“Ultimately, we need the inquiry to hand down some rock solid findings that are going to ensure all aspects of food security, from people having reliable access to enough nutritious food to lead a healthy and active life, through to the way this committee is looking at it around farmers having access to the land, resources, water, and labour that they need to be able to produce,” Casey said.

National Food Donation Tax Incentive

Foodbank Australia CEO Brianna Casey at the National Food Waste Summit discussing a National Food Donation Tax Incentive.
Foodbank Australia CEO Brianna Casey at the National Food Waste Summit discussing a National Food Donation Tax Incentive.

At the National Food Waste Summit in November 2022, Casey was part of a panel calling for a National Food Donation Tax Incentive (NFDTI). KPMG completed a report into boosting food relief through the tax system including extensive consultation with stakeholders.

For Foodbank, the 70 per cent of the 7.6 million tonnes of food wasted every year that is perfectly edible could deliver a social return of $2 billion.

At the time, Casey said, “It is ludicrous that our tax system does not reward hard-working farmers and small business transporters who contribute invaluable products and services to food relief.

“We should be making it easier to donate rather than dump perfectly good produce that may not look quite right, and one of the ways we can do that it by making sensible changes to our tax system to incentivise food donation.”

Foodbank Australia works with 2625 frontline charities and 2890 school breakfast programs to get more than 82 million meals out to those who need a hand.

 This week is Anti-Poverty Week and the food relief charity is advocating the federal government to use the Foodbank Hunger Report 2023 as a reference point in future policy settings underpinning poverty and inequality and to ensure the food relief sector is adequately resourced to respond to current and future levels of demand across Australia.

Related articles and recordings

Budget 2023: Food relief calls go unanswered

Solving Australia's hunger crisis 

Food & Drink Business podcast with Brianna Casey

Research: Hidden hunger now a global issue

Packaging News

Birds Eye has committed to sourcing post-consumer recycled (PCR) material as part of its broader sustainable packaging journey, commencing with plastic steam bags.

A new national circular economy framework will be released by the end of the year, which will outline innovations and priorities needed for the country to transition.

Raphael Geminder’s $234m bid to take full control of Pact fell short of the 90 per cent ownership he needed on Friday, resulting in the share price dropping by 9 per cent in trading this week.