A Dose of Kiwi Reality ... ...
Each year, 15% of the New Zealand population are hit by hard times and find themselves unable to get the food they need.
This is called food insecurity, and many reach out for food relief in these dire moments. No one’s story is the same – it strikes senior
s, families and children, single parents, the employed and the unemployed, the homeless, the city and the country. Some might have suffered illness or abuse, copped a big bill, lost an income, a home, or a loved one – but all of them are going through a rough patch where food becomes a lower priority.
What is food insecurity - and why don’t you just say ‘hungry’?
Food insecurity 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” (Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations). Food insecurity is the state of being without reliable access to a sufficient quantity of affordable, nutritious food on a day-to-day basis, and an assured ability to acquire acceptable foods in socially acceptable ways, for example, without resorting to emergency food supplies, scavenging, begging or stealing as other coping strategies. This is different to hunger, which is a sensation many of us experience often but are able to address by simply opening a cupboard or a fridge. Food insecure people do not have this luxury and cannot regularly and routinely put a meal on the table for themselves or their family.
Also ‘hunger’ tends to bring our stereotyping to the fore – geographical, particular socio-economic groupings, etc. So we encourage the preferential usage of ‘food insecurity’. Further, ‘food insecurity’ is non-wealth based - working Kiwis are not immune – food insecurity encompasses every spectrum of society. Being employed does not guarantee that a person will not experience food insecurity. Almost half of those experiencing food insecurity are employed in some way (either full-time, part-time, casually or self-employed). Despite being employed, however, these individuals and families still find it hard to make ends meet. The face of food insecurity has changed. It is no longer restricted to a particular geographic area or economic class of society.
And, it’s not always those one might expect. The face of food insecurity in Canterbury is diverse. Ranging from young to old, from employed to unemployed, and from city to rural.
The largest numbers of people seeking food assistance are doing so because they are struggling to afford daily necessities on a small income. Whilst City Harvest Food Rescue agencies provide assistance to a diverse range of groups, including those struggling with unemployment, homelessness and addiction, domestic violence and abuse, the most common group we assist are individuals and families living on a low income – unable to make ends meet.
Food insecurity and food poverty is widespread. The University of Otago 2016 Food Survey estimates basic weekly food costs are $64 per week for a man, $55 for a woman, $67 for an adolescent boy, $40 for a five-year-old and $27 for a one-year-old.
To get through times of food insecurity, people often go without. When individuals are faced with food insecurity, meal-skipping is commonplace. Many New Zealanders (45%) experiencing food insecurity have skipped a meal, and 28% have gone for an entire day without eating.
For parents, meal-skipping can mean the difference between their children having something to eat or going hungry. Almost half (46%) of parents have skipped a meal so that their children can eat in instances where they have been unable to afford food. Despite the fact that in New Zealand we grow, manufacture and import sufficient food to provide every man, woman and child in the country with three nutritious meals per day, it is estimated that 270,000 school-going children throughout New Zealand either go to school without breakfast of go to bed without tea. Children can also miss out on vital nutrition and 17% of parents report their children go without fresh fruit or vegetables in times of food insecurity.
Household food insecurity poses a significant threat to the healthy development of children and young people. Adolescents who live with food insecurity are more likely to be overweight. Young people who live in households with concerns about food security get lower grades at school and are more likely to have been suspended. Adolescents experiencing food insecurity experience a greater burden of mental health concerns, including greater emotional difficulties Though the nature of the relationship between food insecurity and poor adolescent health indicators are not fully understood, it has been hypothesised that they are likely explained either through poor nutrition, family stress or as an indicator of socio-economic deprivation. These factors are all the result of extensive research and reporting in the USA and it is not a far stretch of the mind to concur that similar patterns are emerging here in New Zealand.
Anne lives in a tiny two-bedroom unit and experiences constant anxiety about stretching her resources to feed herself and her baby. There isn’t enough money from her welfare provisions to pay for housing, bills and adequate food. She purchases cheap dollar loaves of bread from the local corner store to stave off her hunger pains but the lack of nutritious food means she is unable to produce enough breastmilk to feed her baby. This has created a vicious cycle of hunger and sleep deprivation, eventually culminating in an emotional breakdown at a local family support centre. Anne, along with an increasing number of New Zealanders, is experiencing ongoing food insecurity. (Kiki van Newtown).
Like many people living with food insecurity, Anne has found that better-off New Zealanders often don’t understand the reality of the food insecurity situation in our country.
Lack of food can significantly impact the quality of life. Not having enough to eat can severely impact everyday functioning and wellbeing. Food insecure New Zealanders most commonly report lethargy or tiredness (42%), a decline in mental health (38%) and a loss of confidence (35%) because of lack of food.
Not having enough food can also influence a person’s ability to create and maintain social connections. More than a quarter (28%) of New Zealanders report that in times where they have run out of food and are not able to afford more, they have been unable to invite friends or family over.
Dignity. Many families will go without rather than ask for food. Embarrassment and indignity are powerful social drivers.
At City Harvest Food Rescue we know we will never defeat hunger totally, but we can give it a damn good try!
Assisting our communities through the front-line agencies is our approach to this major economic and social problem occurring here in NZ and in our city. We strive to ensure that our food programmes focus on the conditions for change – engagement and empowerment thereby providing legitimate opportunities that are directly relevant to the concerns, needs and interests of our communities.
Using food as a tool to combat hunger and build communities, City Harvest Food Rescue Canterbury is a ‘take-no-prisoners, make-no-excuses, well-oiled hunger fighting and landfill emissions reduction machine’ … … one that is having major impact in Christchurch, and for the people of Canterbury!
© CHFR 2018