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Urgent need to focus on food insecurity – Monash University

Supermarket trolley at an aisle filled up with healthy vegetables seen from the consumers point of view from above

Monash University researchers have stated recently that there’s a need for Australia to implement a national food and nutrition policy urgently to address food insecurity.

Monash researchers said that there is a lack of coordination action to deal with the issue.

“Left unaddressed, food insecurity presents as an urgent public health priority, potentially resulting in significant costs to individuals, families and to society as a whole,” according to the study by the Department of Nutrition, Dietetics and Food, published in the journal Nutrition and Dietetics.

“This long-overdue national food and nutrition policy would be inclusive of food security and intercept with other broader policy-based responses that affect other key drivers of food insecurity,” said report co-author and Monash University public health nutrition researcher Dr Sue Kleve.

The Foodbank Hunger report also found out that one in five Australians ran out of food and couldn’t afford to buy more at least once in 2019. At least once a week, three in 10 food-insecure Aussies don’t eat for an entire day, the report stated.

Monash University said that the predominant response in tackling this problem has been to provide emergency food relief or initiatives that focus on “changing food knowledge, skills or behaviour of individuals”. It said that these initiatives address the repercussions of food insecurity at an individual level, but it isn’t enough to address the root of the problem.

Monash found that there are only eight initiatives with a national approach to the issue and these were more focused on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.

However, the research found few of the initiatives were thoroughly evaluated, impeding the ability to determine their effectiveness of improving food security in the communities on which they were focused.

“For example, addressing the adequacy of social assistance benefits such as Newstart, to ensure low-income earners have increased capacity to buy nutritious food, would be crucial.”

Advocacy groups Public Health Association of Australia and the Right to Food Coalition have also urged the government to take action. Dr Kleve said that this policy approach could be a guide to help deal with food insecurity at federal, state and local government levels.

“Given the documented significant health, social and environmental impacts of food insecurity there is the need for advocacy for leadership by government to provide strategic direction inclusive of funded policy solutions to address the complex array of determinants. This needs to be supported with evaluations that are adequately resourced such that the findings may be translated to ‘practice’,” said Dr Kleve about the study.

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