WHILE most of us enjoy three meals a day, there are children all over Orange who go for days without any food in their bellies.
A study undertaken by one of the country’s biggest charities, Anglicare Australia, shows unexpected bills or car repairs can often leave families without enough money to buy basic necessities such as food.
Anglicare spokesman Jeremy Halcrow said the survey revealed some shocking truths about families doing it tough.
“People like to think we’re a rich country but I think people would be surprised to hear about the depth of the poverty,” he said.
“We were shocked to see the impact this is having on children ... I don’t think the general public are aware of the extent of the problem.”
Anglicare has about 45,000 households accessing its emergency relief services throughout Australia.
Around 590 of these households took part in the survey, which revealed many parents regularly did not have enough money to feed their families.
“Our research clearly indicates that parents try to protect their children by deliberately missing meals themselves and sometimes going without food for a whole day,” Mr Halcrow said.
“It is particularly shocking that among households with children that are severely food insecure, almost one in 10 reported that children did not eat for a whole day on a regular basis.”
Despite the findings, Mr Halcrow said Anglicare was encouraged to hear the extent to which parents would sacrifice their own food for their children’s sake.
“Parents are doing all they can,” he said.
Mr Halcrow said there were a number of factors that contributed to “food insecurity” with the high cost of transport and a lack of access to shops particularly glaring issues in regional areas.
A lack of a refrigerator in the home and a perception that the household budget was inadequate were other contributing factors.
However, despite the fact that people in country areas may pay more for electricity, transport, food and other services, they have the advantage of better informal community networks, such as family and friends, they can rely on.
“The big smoke is anonymous. Rural towns are not and so the social connectedness of the country affects reciprocal behaviour for the better,” Mr Halcrow said.
“No one I spoke to was socially isolated.
“Nearly all were strongly connected into a wider community network.”
Mr Halcrow said households experiencing the most severe food insecurity were those with men who were on Newstart (transistioning into employment) payments and single parent families.
He said many families will continue to struggle to have adequate food as the cost of living rises.
“Most of their disposable income is allocated to food so the more budgets are squeezed the less food there will be,” he said.