Australia’s hunger games

More than 3.5 million Australians, 15 percent of the population, experienced food insecurity in 2017, according to Foodbank, Australia’s largest hunger relief organisation.

Food insecurity, as defined by Foodbank and the United Nations, is “a situation that exists when people lack secure access to sufficient amounts of safe and nutritious food for normal growth and development and an active and healthy life”.

Two in five households experiencing hunger are families with dependent children. Eighty-nine per cent of these children are under 12 – children without sufficient nutritious food to run around and have a life!

Foodbank regularly supplies breakfasts to 100,000 children throughout the country through school programs. In a Courier Mail interview, Foodbank Queensland CEO Michael Rose revealed that in some parts of Queensland the demand for food for breakfast programs has increased 20 percent.

The Foodbank report cites several reasons for the increase in hunger in Australia, including the high cost of living. But the report also found that 48 percent of people said that they did not have enough money to live on in the first place. People are being forced to choose between paying a bill or buying food.

The unemployed and homeless regularly go hungry, but 48 percent of people in paid work also skip meals or do not have adequate food for the day. A staggering 81 percent of families and individuals assisted by Foodbank are those struggling on low incomes.

As Rose commented, “More often, it is people in our street, not just those on the street, that are food insecure … [W]e used to talk about how many pays away people were from being on the streets. Now that buffer is non-existent”.

The contrast between Australia’s record-breaking business profits and increasing food insecurity among workers perfectly sums up the priorities of the capitalist system: profit at the expense of human need. It also illustrates why we need to get rid of that system.