Empty shopping trolley in supermarket aisle

Food insecurity – or the lack of access to sufficient food – is not something that just affects developing nations, according to QUT researcher Dr Carol Richards. Writing in The Conversation, Dr Richards said this month’s Foodbank report, Fighting Hunger in Australia, showed around 15 per cent of Australians had experienced food insecurity and highlighted the need for the government to do more.

“Despite reasonable expectations that economic growth in advanced capitalist societies will ensure food security, this is not universal across so-called ‘wealthy nations’,” she said.

“The problem lies with Australia’s neoliberal political economy, where food is a commodity rather than a right. Under these conditions, it is the market, rather than government, that determines access to food.

“People who are economically marginalised find themselves increasingly distanced from access to nutritious food.”

Dr Richards said the shortfall in government responses meant the non-profit sector has stepped in with charitable ventures such as food banks.

But she said they could mask the problem and deflect debate from the underlying structural causes of food insecurity in a developed nation, namely poverty.

“Our research shows how social-democratic welfare policies lift the standard of living for all. This means citizens of countries such as Norway have rarely required charitable food relief despite high food prices.

“In Australia, the federal welfare agency, Centrelink, offers limited relief for the food insecure, such as one-off crisis payments to recipients of benefits. However, increases in the cost of food, energy and housing prices have not been matched by corresponding increases in welfare payments.

Read Dr Richards’ article in The Conversation

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