Ballarat is a regional Victorian City, home to just over 103,000 residents. In 2017, it was conservatively estimated that 12% of Ballarat's population accessed emergency food relief services at least once in the previous year. Food insecurity is defined as the ‘inability of an individual, household or community to acquire appropriate and nutritious food on a regular and reliable basis through socially acceptable means’. The survey was designed to obtain an accurate and subjective understanding of the users’ experiences of food insecurity and perspective of the services they were accessing. Consequently, this report provides literature surrounding food insecurity and its mechanisms within a regional community for the Food Access Network (FAN) and Ballarat Community Health (BCH).
1. To increase the knowledge within BCH and FAN surrounding the effects of food insecurity on health, wellbeing and quality of life within those in the community of Ballarat accessing Emergency Food Relief (ER) and Meals Programs (MP).
2. To heighten the capacity of BCH and FAN to address issues relating to food insecurity and nutrition in Ballarat.
3. For BCH to build understanding of the contributing factors to food insecurity by people seeking ER and MP in Ballarat.
4. To increase BCH’s understanding of the experiences of those seeking ER and MP in Ballarat.
A cross-sectional study was conducted with individuals within the community of Ballarat whom accessed three charitable food relief organisations within the last 12 months. This study consisted of a written survey, height and weight measurement and 24-hour food recall with charitable food services clients. The survey was adapted from the previous survey developed for a metropolitan study by Curtin University.
A total of 100 charitable food service clients (53 male, 47 female) were interviewed. Respondents were aged between 20 and 83 years with an average age of 46.5. Ten percent identified as being Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander origin. Thirty-six percent identified as having a dependent child/family/other that relied on them for food and shelter.
Results indicate that 78% of the respondents are experiencing varying degrees of food insecurity with hunger. Thirty-nine percent of respondents indicated that they have endured a whole day or more in the previous week without eating, while 68% of respondents were overweight/obese. Moreover, 61% of respondents indicated that food insecurity has mental and physical health repercussions. Ninety-seven percent of respondents were solely reliant on government income.
The study has identified income, education and physical environment as key determinants that contribute to food insecurity in Ballarat.
Respondents made suggestions for improvements, notably, increased coordination between the organisations, increase of quality and nutrition and other possible additional services.
Overall, respondents were very appreciative of the current services provided by the three organisations. This report has identified several key areas to increase the effectiveness of the emergency food relief services in Ballarat. This includes food and nutrition adequacy for clients; organisation development to increase access for clients; coordination between food relief organisations; providing and promoting additional services; and improving workforce skills.
Emily Clarke, Benjamin David, Chloe Swiney and Jessica Xi.
Monash University, Department of Nutrition Dietetics and Food
Topic: Food and eating, Research
Audience: General Public
Target Group: General Public