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In a first world country like Australia, some families still cannot adequately feed their families. Interview by Mohamed Taha.
Zahra: My mum has been having difficulty buying food and just the general groceries and paying the bills and so on.
Mohamed Taha: Zahra is a 26-year-old nurse from Western Sydney. After moving with her family to Australia from Afghanistan 10 years ago, she’s now moved out and happily married. However she’s fully aware that her mother doesn’t have enough food to eat.
Zahra: My mum didn’t really say much that she was struggling until I actually could tell myself when I used to visit her. That she didn’t have enough food in the fridge and things like that. And the fridge wasn’t working. Things would go off. It kind of made me feel upset that I couldn’t really help her being her eldest child.
Mohamed Taha: Zahra’s family is one of thousands experiencing food insecurity across the country. The recent Anglicare Australia report estimates that 45,000 households using the charity’s emergency relief don’t have enough money to adequately feed their families.
Kasy Chambers: It is really inconceivable that in 2012 we should be having this conversation in the richest country in the world.
Mohamed Taha: Kasy Chambers is the CEO of Anglicare Australia.
Kasy Chambers: 22,000 adults across the country using Anglicare services are actually going without food for a whole day, at least once a week, most weeks.
Mohamed Taha: Zahra says sometimes her mother goes days without food.
Zahra: I’m sure days go without eating sometimes just so she can have proper food for my brother.
Mohamed Taha: And it’s not just adults Anglicare is concerned about. Almost one in 10 of the surveyed households reported their children did not eat for a whole day on a regular basis.
Kasy Chambers: This isn’t relative poverty. This isn’t about arguing where the poverty line should sit. This is absolute poverty. This is children living in households where there is not enough food to eat.
Mohamed Taha: Do you think the report highlights the connection between food insecurity and inadequate income?
Kasy Chambers: Definitely. We asked people why, why they didn’t have enough to eat? And basically everybody told us they didn’t have enough money. There just simply wasn’t enough money to put enough food on the table.
Mohamed Taha: Kasy Chambers says the Federal government must help those on low-incomes.
Kasy Chambers: We do have to see an increase in the benefits, especially benefits like Newstart which are really really low.
Mohamed Taha: In the United States, 14.9 per cent of households are food insecure. According to Liz Millen, President of the Sydney Food Fairness Alliance, the extent of food insecurity across the country shouldn’t be underestimated.
Liz Millen: The most consistent survey finding is somewhere between 5 and 10% of Australians being food insecure. We’d like more recognition at a political and policy level, from our policy makers to support access to healthy food by all.
Mohamed Taha: Liz Millen says their needs to be greater recognition from government.
Liz Millen: What I’d like to see is that it’s considered a really key issue to look at, in the same way that we have say a Minister for Housing, a Minister for Employment, a Minister for Education, why not a Minister for Food? Why don’t we look at this as being an essential need for a long and healthy life, which is going to keep people out of hospital beds?
Mohamed Taha: Kasy Chambers says the latest findings indicate Australia needs to reconsider how the disadvantaged are treated.
Kasy Chambers: I think what it shows is that we are not, we might be the richest country in the world but we’re certainly not good at distributing that wealth and we’re not good at thinking about how the most disadvantaged can come back into society and how we can make them members of society.