Charity releases startling hunger statistics

By Benalla Ensign

More than 12 tonnes of food has been supplied to Benalla charities and schools to cope with its hunger crisis.

In a new report Foodbank said our children were more likely to go hungry than adults this year, releasing startling figures on the amount of food it had supplied to charities and schools involved in the School Breakfast Club program.

Since joining the School Breakfast Club, which delivers healthy breakfasts to 500 of the most disadvantaged schools across Victoria, in term four 2016, Benalla P-12 College (Waller St, Faithfull and Avon St campuses) has been supplied with 7846kg of food.

The Salvation Army in Benalla has received 4239kg in the past nine months.

Craig Carley, who runs one of Benalla P-12 College’s Breakfast clubs, said the figures did not surprise him.

‘‘It’s a lot, but we see it all the time, kids not turning up with food for various reasons,’’ Mr Carley said.

‘‘Sometimes parents forget to pack a lunch or kids forget to bring their lunch in.

‘‘Other times kids come in and say ‘we just don’t have any food at home’, and we don’t want any barriers to stop kids from learning.

‘‘We know that without food in their body they won’t be able to concentrate or get on with the day.

‘‘So having so much food donated is very important to us and our students.’’

Foodbank’s first research report on the prevalence of child hunger in Australia found more than one in five — about 22 per cent — have experienced food insecurity in the past year, compared to 15 per cent of adults.

Foodbank’s first research report on the prevalence of child hunger in Australia found more than one in five children in Australia had experienced food insecurity during the past year, compared to 15 per cent of adults.

And at least once a week, 18 per cent of food-insecure children go to school without eating breakfast, 15 per cent go to school without a packed lunch or lunch money and 11 per cent go to bed without eating dinner.

The report found the major factor driving the growing need for hunger relief in Australia was the rising cost of living.

And this is certainly the case in Benalla, according to Benalla Salvation Army Corps officer Ben Anderson.

Foodbank has supplied the Salvation Army in Benalla with 4239kg of food in just nine months.

Mr Anderson said the donations were essential in a town like Benalla.

‘‘I think from our perspective there is certainly a great need in terms of the level of unemployment in Benalla,’’ he said.

‘‘That combined with the rising cost of living means that we are probably seeing more people struggle to make ends meet even if they are working.

‘‘We also have the typical rural problems, in that there are far less services that people in need can access than an example like Melbourne.’’

Food insecurity is much higher in rural and regional areas, such as Kyabram and surrounding towns, according to Foodbank Victoria chief executive Dave McNamara.

‘‘Services are not as available in regional areas as in metropolitan areas so food insecurity runs higher because there are not the services there to get the food to people,’’ Mr McNamara said.

‘‘We are trying to re-engage charities like Community Houses, Uniting Care and St Vinnies to re-start their services, but the age of volunteers is going up, averaging about 70 years old, so it’s really tough to get food out to the people who need it.’’

Mr McNamara said the report’s findings that hunger was more common among children than adults was a, ‘‘tragedy in the making’’.

‘‘It’s more than disturbing,’’ he said.

‘‘Kids are our future.

‘‘If this is how they’re starting their lives, imagine how they’re finishing it?’’

Mr McNamara said there needed to be an advocacy effort to put pressure on the Federal Government to improve things like housing affordability and health care, more funding for the welfare sector and the development of a food-security plan.

‘‘In two generations people have forgotten how to cook and grow their own food for the sake of convenience,’’ he said.

‘‘We need to re-educate and remind people how easy it is to cook and how simple it is to grow your own food.’’