Casual workers and international students are facing food insecurity because of COVID

Young people are being affected by food insecurity during COVID. Image, Getty
  • A new report from Foodbank found two new groups facing food insecurity as a result of the coronavirus pandemic: casual workers and international students.
  • The report also revealed an increase in demand for food relief during COVID.
  • The number of people experiencing food insecurity has doubled from 15% in 2019 to 31% in 2020.
  • Visit Business Insider Australia’s homepage for more stories.

Casual workers and international students are the latest groups of people facing food insecurity as a result of COVID.

Australian food relief organisation Foodbank released its Hunger Report 2020, which looked at food insecurity during the pandemic.

Prior to COVID, the groups of people mainly seeking food relief were single-parent families, those who were unemployed, low-income families, people with mental illness and the homeless. But with the onset of the pandemic, the demand for food relief has risen and those who were already struggling before, being affected “more quickly and more seriously.”

While 15% of Aussies who experienced food insecurity looked for food relief at least once a week in 2019, that has doubled to 31% in 2020. And charities have seen a demand for food relief increase an average of 47%.

The pandemic has seen some groups of people become food insecure for the first time. Two new groups that are now experiencing food insecurity are casual workers and international students.

“For newly food insecure Australians, COVID-19 has been a catalyst for a chain of negative events of which a shortage of food is just a part,” the report stated. “As bills pile up and income dwindles, stress and unmet physical needs are likely to cause a decline in mental health.”

The report found 69% of charities had a spike in newly unemployed people looking for food relief since the onset of the pandemic – 39% reported a rise in the number of international students.

It comes as the unemployment rate in Australia reached 7.4% in June, its highest point since 1988. Lentil As Anything, the organisation behind a chain of pay-as-you-feel restaurants and a food relief program, has also been providing meals to international students.

According to the Foodbank report, 43% of Australians experiencing food insecurity are going a whole day without eating at least once a week – an increase from 30% in 2019. A higher proportion of young people are going hungry once a week – 65% of Gen Z between the ages of 18 and 25 – compared to food insecure Baby Boomers (aged 56 to 74) at 25%.

Image: Foodbank

While government support in the form of JobKeeper and JobSeeker has provided some relief, there are some concerns about these payments being reduced or cut altogether in the future.

“Almost 35% don’t know how they will cope or expect they will not cope well at all when this additional support is no longer available,” the report stated.

But not everyone who is experiencing food insecurity it accessing the support they need. Three in five were found to have received food relief but 39% did not. The most common reason for not accessing the relief was a feeling that other people needed it more, followed by a sense of embarrassment and shame.

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