A report into food insecurity in Tasmania has revealed up to 50,000 Tasmanians may be going without food and cannot afford to buy more when they run out.
Dishing Up the Facts co-author Leah Galvin said if the figure was confined to one region – such as the combined population of Devonport and Burnie – the situation would be considered an emergency.
“Because it feels hidden or tucked away it feels less of a priority,” Ms Galvin said.
“Housing, water, safety, food, they’re pretty fundamental requirements, so it is an issue that’s being overlooked.”
The report showed a major reason some Tasmanians went without food was a lack of income. Low-income households, single parents, children living with poverty and people with disability or chronic disease were more likely to find it difficult to access healthy food.
“A family dependent on government income support payments would need to spend around 44 per cent of their household income on food in order to eat a healthy diet ... compared to 20 per cent for the average Australian family,” the report stated.
“In reality, an unemployed household can afford to spend on average just 17 per cent of their income on food.
“Tasmanian research with people living on low incomes found that 97 per cent of participants had to prioritise expenditure on housing costs, electricity, and two or more other priorities ... ahead of expenditure on food.”
The report also found that Tasmanians on low incomes paid more for food than their more affluent counterparts, partly due to a lack of access to major food outlets and an inability to buy in bulk.
Ms Galvin said the government’s recently-released Healthy Tasmania strategy had a welcome emphasis on helping Tasmanians make better choices but said it must be acknowledged that not everyone had the capacity to do so.
Previous research has found that of the 353 shops selling healthy food in Tasmania, just 19 were located in areas with the lowest household income.
“We need lots of different organisations and businesses working together on a solution that fits the communities,” Ms Galvin said.
“There is an enormous amount of goodwill.”
Food insecurity was estimated to cost the state’s health system about $60 million extra per year.