The worsening cost of living crisis means Christmas won’t be a time of frivolity for many Tasmanians, with a growing number finding themselves in a fight for survival, battling the effects of interest rate rises, increasing rental costs and higher bills for groceries, energy, fuel and health care.
Tasmania’s largest provider of emergency food relief and founding member of the Tasmanian Food Security Coalition, Loaves & Fishes Tasmania, has revealed that at current support levels it can only deliver approximately 45% of what is required by community food partners.
TasCOSS CEO, Ms Adrienne Picone, said with more Tasmanians seeking food relief, pressure is mounting on community service organisations already struggling to keep up with demand, amidst inadequate resourcing.
“As we head into what is meant to a joyful time of year, research shows in the last 12 months 84,000 Tasmanian households — more than the population of Launceston — have struggled to have enough to eat. That’s an increase of 18,000 on last year,” Ms Picone said.
“Tasmanians tell us they are regularly skipping meals and buying poorer quality, heavily processed food because it is all they can afford, and only a small proportion seek emergency food relief as a coping strategy.
“In a country where we produce enough food to feed our population three-times over, we should not be facing a Christmas where families are skipping meals and going without health care or power in order to put food on the table.”
Tasmanian Food Security Coalition representative and Eat Well Tasmania State Manager, Mr Carl Saunder, said he’d seen a significant increase in demand placed on emergency food relief agencies across the state.
“Although we’ve had some progress from the actions within the state’s Food Relief to Food Resilience Strategy, there’s so much more that needs to be done and we need to work collaboratively with all levels of government, industry and communities to address the needs of Tasmanians,” Mr Saunder said.
“There is more than enough food to go around, what the Government needs to prioritise is providing the necessary resources and infrastructure, so all of us can have access to fresh, healthy food.
“There so many great local, innovative solutions and initiatives where communities are coming together to help one another, and I strongly believe part of the solution lies in empowering and building the capacity of communities to help their own.
“None of us should accept that over 100,000 Tasmanians are unsure of what Christmas will look like this year, and we would encourage anyone struggling to put food on the table this Christmas to reach out to their local relief agency.”*
School Food Matters School Lunch Project Manager, Ms Julie Dunbabin, said the School Food Program was a tremendous example of a coordinated, collaborative, place-based approach which is successfully combating food insecurity among our children.
“Over 4,000 children have been enjoying a wonderful sit-down school lunch during 2023. This equates to a little over 200,000 lunches in 2023,” said Ms Dunbabin.
“We know that there is often stigma attached for children who are most in need to access food. We also know that many children struggle to choose or access nutritious food during their school day, regardless of their parents’ income.
“Therefore, a successful School Food Program needs to be universal, meaning that all children and youth, rather than targeted children and youth, are able to access nutritious food whilst at school. Such a program also needs to link with existing emergency food relief services, such as Loaves & Fishes Tasmania.
“Evidence shows that well fed children grow, learn and develop social skills to the best of their ability. Our program has also shown that offering school lunches boosts student attendance. It also supports local farmers and regional economies by increasing jobs and procuring local food.
“The School Food Program is a fantastic opportunity to both support our economy and feed our children with Tasmanian food that is nutritious, tasty, local and seasonal.”
Ms Picone said TasCOSS is calling on the Tasmanian Government to prevent Tasmanians going hungry by boosting funding for emergency food relief providers and the School Food Program, investing in a community awareness campaign, and to work with the Tasmanian Food Security Coalition to deliver the Healthy Tasmania Strategic Plan actions on ‘Eating Well.’
These recommendations form part of TasCOSS’s 2024/25 Budget Priorities Statement, Supporting Tasmanians in a Worsening Cost of Living Crisis (see pp. 14-16).
* To find local emergency relief providers by region or council area, please visit FindHelpTAS (findhelptas.org.au), Tasmania’s largest online directory of community services.