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Facing Food Insecurity: Causes & Current Programs Report

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Updated: Apr 30th, 2022

Skills and knowledge anticipated out of the assignment

Unit HSN202 will provide me with skills and relevant knowledge for the derivation of practical solutions to resolve nutritional challenges. I will also gain knowledge on linking skills and knowledge acquired in the unit to various workplace nutritional problems. In the current unit, I expect to extend this knowledge to acquire knowledge in devising ways for handling nutrition-related challenges at a national level. In this quest, this assignment will provide an opportunity to explore various programs together with patterns and prevalence of food insecurity problems within Australia. Successful identification of the challenge will give me room to make proposals for solutions to such problems based on scholarly evidence both presently and in the future.

Causes and prevalence of food insecurity

Nations seeking to maintain healthy populations place critical emphasis on food security. Food insecurity has a direct correlation to malnutrition, which is an enormous contributing factor to malnutrition-related ailments. Radimer (2002) defines food security as the “access by all people at all times to enough food for an active, healthy life” (p.860). Drawing from this definition, food insecurity occurs in a situation of limited access to safe foods possessing sufficient nutritional values through mechanisms that are socially acceptable with certainty. According to the World Health Organisation (2011), a nation is food secure in case it is able to fulfill three essential components of food security: “food access, food availability, and food use” (Para 4). Food access refers to the ability to acquire and/or enhance the consumption of foods that are nutritious through reliable transposition, storage, and provision of information to consumers on diet choice. Food use refers to “the appropriate use of food based on knowledge of basic nutrition care” (Turrell & Kavanagh 2005, p.379). Before any program enacted by the government of Australia can claim to have ensured food sufficiency and security, it needs to reflect all these globally acceptable requirements for food security.

Australia has not yet fully dealt with the challenge of food insecurity. However, the prevalence levels of the problem vary. Statistical findings released in 2001 by Strategic Inter-Governmental Nutrition Alliance of the National Public Health Partnership (SIGNAL NPHP) indicated that 30 percent of indigenous people were worried about vulnerabilities of situations of food insecurity (SIGNAL NPHP 2001, p.6). Communities living in rural areas report higher incidences of food insecurity (Browne et al. 2009, p.9). However, local persons who stay in towns also record high food diffidence because of challenges such as “poor income, poor accessibility to transport, overcrowding, poor storage facilities for foods, and poor facilities for cooking” (Browne et al. 2009, p.9). With these causes of food insecurity in mind, Burns (2004) claims that some people experience food insecurity at higher rates in comparison with the general population (p.19). These are “indigenous people (24%), unemployed people (23%), single-parent households (23%), low-income earners (20%), rental households (20%), and young people at 15%” (Browne et al. 2009, p.11). Food insecurity challenges among culturally and linguistically diverse persons (CALD) are caused by insufficient nutritional education, which is vital for the selection of the foods sold within the Australian supermarkets in terms of dietary requirements.

Differences in income levels causing food insecurity among Australian populations are due to the limitation of buying adequate and nutritious foods sold in food outlets across Australia (Turrell & Kavanagh 2005, p.380; Turrell et al. 2007, p.357). Low-income families mostly live in rural areas. This suggests that the food security problem is more prevalent among the low-income earning families living in remote areas. Nevertheless, middle-class people have vulnerability for experiencing food insecurity due to job losses (Nolan et al. 2006, p.250; Temple 2008, p.653). This limits the funds available for allocation in buying balanced diet foods among them. Persons living with terminal illnesses and frailness together with various challenges that may lead to social isolation also have higher probabilities of experiencing higher food insecurity, with their financial ability notwithstanding.

Food insecurity problems as a public nutrition problem

Food insecurity is simply not limited to the accessibility of adequate foods in terms of quantity. The nutritional value of foods consumed is significant in the discussion of food insecurity. Addressing challenges causing food insecurity does not only require individual efforts to have access to nutritionally appropriate foods subject to availing adequate clinical knowledge and information on the significance of consuming a balanced diet (Gill, Colagiuri & Caterson et al. 2011, p.147). The challenge also requires the development of legal frameworks through government policies, thus leading to the establishment of effective programs not only for educating the public but also for ensuring the accessibility and affordability of nutritious foods.

An effort to fulfill the above concerns for enhancing food security reduces the problem to a public health nutrition issue relevant to Australia and one that requires public health approach rather than a clinical or individual approach. Many of the problems contributing to food insufficiency require government-community engagement programs to resolve them (Gill, Colagiuri & Caterson et al. 2011, p.147). The government needs to take central initiatives in funding such programs to ensure that they achieve their objectives, goals, and aims.

Identification and justification of specific issues and the group targeted by the program

Government-community nutrition educational and engagement program is critical in ensuring the dissemination of information on healthy eating habits. Government should recruit various community-based groups, which when funded help to educate and train people on quality methods of food storage and preservation to the most prevalent groups. The focus of the program is to educate about food insecurity vulnerabilities to the susceptible groups of people across Australia.

Literature on nutritional education among most food insecure and vulnerable groups indicates that such groups have poor access to quality nutritional education (Burns 2004, p.45). This implies that, even through the foods sourced by low-income families and other groups of people experiencing high rates of food insecurity vulnerabilities may not be of right magnitudes, the quality of the little acquired foods is poor. Thus, it does not meet the nutritional requirements. Government-community partnership in offering nutritional education is perhaps best justified by The Smith Family & Fairfield West Primary School (2009) that informs, “nutritional education in languages other than English may be necessary for some CALD groups” (Para.8). This suggests that breaking the communication barrier between CALD groups and nutritional clinicians, especially when such groups are not familiar with English language, requires a community-based education program.

Community-based programs are effective in helping in communicating the recommendations made by public health on the suggested quality food preparation techniques, food selection, and combination together with meal planning strategies without communication barrier. The efforts of the government to establish educational programs for nutrition are important. However, the question of whether such programs deliver the intended information on healthy eating habits in a manner that is easily accessible and disseminated by clients amid cultural and linguistic barriers remains relevant. Amicable response to the query of whether the education programs deliver information in languages that are understood by all Australian population including the immigrants underlines the significance of partnership in nutritional education program between the government and communities.

Current program to address public health nutrition issues

There are several government-initiated projects addressing issues of food insecurity in Australia. The community kitchen project is one of such projects. The project has been operating in Frankston in the state of Victoria at pilot level. According to Frankston Community Health Service, the chief aim of the project is to “improve participants’ food security through acquiring food knowledge and skills whilst reducing social isolation” (2004, Para.3). Its main strengths are based on the food security issues that it seeks to address since they have a direct relationship with food nutritional issues prevalent in Australian.

Community kitchen program focuses on food insecurity issues related to food use together with access. These issues are “the poor physical and financial access to quality and affordable fresh produce, which are in turn a barrier to healthy eating for some community members” (Tapsell 2008, p.24). Another major advantage of the program is that it targets groups of people who portray high prevalence levels for encountering food insecurity. It targets the elderly, indigenous persons, individuals, and youths. The disadvantage is that it requires members to contribute. The program also emphasises inclusion without considering issues of linguistic barriers, especially when persons who do not understand English are included in the groups.

Australia seeks to enhance food security in future by incorporating lessons on nutrition in the school curriculum. The major strength of this program is that it directly supports government policy initiatives such as the national food plan. The tenth goal of the plan says, “Australia will have built on its high level of food security by continuing to improve access to safe and nutritious food for those living in remote communities or struggling with disadvantages” (Pratley & Copeland 2013, p.4). Since the Australian curriculum is consistent across all sates, through nutritional education program incorporated in the Australian curriculum, it is possible to reach people of all demographic characteristics.

When students acquire knowledge in school, it is possible to utilise such knowledge and/or share it with their local communities. Hence, it is also possible to reach persons possessing high vulnerabilities of food insecurity effectively. The program has an additional strength since it endeavours to articulate the concern of proper nutrition with practice in schools. This goal is achieved through funding for various gardens belonging to schools together with emphasis on nutritional strategies aimed at increasing consumer information accessibility. This means that nutritional educational programs implemented through school curriculum are key indicators for achieving long-term solutions to food insecurity challenges. Nevertheless, such a program has a weakness in that it is impossible to measure directly how much of the information acquired in school is translated into actual good eating habits. Poor food combination choices are also not instigated by lack of nutritional education. Culture and financial resource availability in families and among individuals are also key factors contributing to poor nutrition.

Strategy to address food insecurity issues based on reviews of the existing program

Analysis of the existing food insecurity challenges reveals that accessibility of quality nutritious foods remains a major challenge in Australia. Indeed, in an analysis of the cost for a healthy diet, Kettings et al. (2009) find expenditure on foods among persons who depend on welfare benefits unwarranted (p.567). The researchers indicated that such persons spend 33% of incomes gained within a week to purchase foods that meet recommendations made by public health (Kettings et al. 2009, p.569). Families earning an average income and single parent families spend 25 percent of incomes on foods meeting the guidelines. For dual parenthood families, these guidelines are met when the family spends 18 percent of their incomes (Kettings et al. 2009, p.569). The report concluded that using 33 percent expenditure of incomes on foods meeting nutritional values prescribed by the public health department among families and individual depending on welfare benefits is too high (Kettings et al. 2009, p.571).

It is recommended for the government to consider increasing the welfare benefits given to all Australian people, especially persons having high vulnerability probabilities for food insecurity. The advantage for this strategy is that, under all conditions remaining constant, such welfare-dependent families would be able to spend 25% of their incomes on foods meeting nutritional recommendations set by public health similar to persons earning an average income. Having more income means that people would have better accessibility to better nutritious foods. This proposal has a disadvantage in that financial resources to cater for the increased social welfare fund kitty may result in an increase of tax. Another disadvantage is that the strategy lacks a means of enforcement. Additionally, availing more money to people does not translate to more expenditure on food items.

Assignment reflections

The assignment provides me with an opportunity to explore various policies and programs for enhancing food security in Australia. The assignment was particularly interesting since it offered me a wider view of the challenge of food insecurity. I have learnt that food security does not only involve adequacy of food in terms of quantity, but also in terms of nutritional value. I found informative information on the debate of food insecurity. I learnt about the prevalence rates of foods insecurity in Australian based on population demographics. This knowledge is important in helping me to identify possible solutions for nutritional challenges facing different people at national level.

References

Browne, J, Laurence, S & Thorpe, S 2009, Acting on Food Insecurity in Urban Aboriginal And Torres Strait Islander Communities: Policy and Practice Interventions to Improve Local Access and Supply of Nutritious Foods. Web.

Burns, C 2004, A review of the literature describing the link between poverty, food insecurity and obesity with specific reference to Australia, Victorian Health Promotion Foundation, Melbourne.

Frankston Community Health Service 2004, Frankston community Kitchen Pilot Project (CAFCA Promising Practice Profile). Web.

Gill, T, Colagiuri, S & Caterson, I. et al. 2011, ‘Childhood obesity in Australia remains a widespread health concern that warrants population-wide prevention programs’, Medical Journal of Australia, vol. 190 no. 3, pp. 146-148.

Kettings, C & Sinclair, A 2009, ‘A healthy diet consistent with Australian health recommendations is too expensive for welfare-dependent families’, Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health, vol. 33 no. 6, pp. 566-572.

Nolan, M et al. 2006, ‘Food insecurity in three socially disadvantaged localities in Sydney, Australia’, Health Promotion Journal of Australia, vol. 17 no. 3, pp. 247-254.

Pratley, E & Copeland, L 2013, ‘Foods sufficiency Policies and Plans’, Farm Policy Journal, Australian Farm Institute, vol. 5 no. 3, pp.1-10.

Radimer, K 2002, ‘Measurement of household food security in the USA and other industrialised countries’, Public Health Nutrition, vol. 5 no. 6, pp. 859-864.

Strategic Inter-Governmental Nutrition Alliance of the National Public Health Partnership 2001, Eat Well Australia: An agenda for action for public health nutrition 2000-2010, National Public Health Partnership, Melbourne.

Tapsell, L 2008, ‘Functional foods: an Australian perspective’, Nutrition & Diet, vol. 65 no. 3, pp. 23-26.

Temple, J 2008, ‘Severe and moderate forms of food insecurity in Australia: Are they distinguishable?’, Australian Journal of Social Issues, vol. 43 no. 4, pp. 649-668.

The Smith Family & Fairfield West Primary School 2009, Fairfield Refugee Nutrition Project (CAFCA Promising Practice Profile). Web.

Turrell, G & Kavanagh, A 2005, ‘Socio-economic pathways to diet: Modelling the association between socio-economic position and food purchasing behaviour’, Public Health Nutrition, vol. 9 no. 3, pp. 375-383.

Turrell, G et al. 2007, ‘Socioeconomic differences in food purchasing behaviour and suggested implications for diet-related health promotion’, Journal of Human Nutrition and Dietetics, vo. 15 no. 6, pp. 355-364.

World Health Organisation 2011, Food Security. Web.

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