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Rumbling tummies: child hunger in Australia

Child health Diet Nutrition Food security Food relief Australia

More than one in five children in Australia live in a food insecure household.

In fact, it is more likely for a child to live in a food insecure household than an adult. Research conducted in 2017 found that 15% of Australians experienced food insecurity in the previous 12 months4 , while 22% of children experienced food insecurity over the same period.

Going hungry is a common occurrence for many children. One in three parents living in food insecure households (32%) say their children do not have enough to eat at least once a month because they cannot afford to buy enough food. One in five parents living in food insecure households (22%) say their child goes a whole day without eating any fresh food at least once a week. Devastatingly, almost one in ten of these parents (9%) say their children go a whole day without eating at all at least once a week.

The cost of living is the main cause of household food insecurity.

Unexpected expenses or large bills (52%) and housing payments (38%) are two of the most prominent causes of food insecurity in households with children under the age of 15. The cost of living forces parents to choose between paying their bills and feeding their family. More than half of parents (56%) have not paid bills in order to have enough money to buy food for their household.

Parents expect even greater challenges in the future.

More than half of parents in food insecure households (51%) expect it to become more challenging to provide food for their family in the future as the cost of living continues to rise. For these parents, bills (32%) and housing costs (18%) seem to be getting more expensive.

Parents notice a number of changes to their children’s wellbeing as a result of food insecurity.

Eating enough food is crucial for healthy growth and development, particularly amongst children. If a child does not have enough food, or enough healthy food, parents notice changes in their behaviour, and in their emotional and physical wellbeing.

More than half of parents (54%) report changes in their child’s emotions as a result of being hungry, such as more outbursts or tantrums (24%) and a decline in their child’s happiness (24%). One in five parents (22%) say their children become agitated and irritable if they do not have enough to eat. One in six parents (17%) notice their children acting up at school or at home as a result of not having enough food.

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