Key messages

  • In 2014, around 1.8 million Victorians experienced food insecurity in the preceding 12 months, by at least one of seven measures of food insecurity.
  • Food insecurity is a particular problem for specific populations such as adults who are unable to work, adults who identify as Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait islander, single parents, the unemployed, and those with a total annual household income of less than $40,000.
  • Food insecurity is also a greater problem for the young than the old - more than half (59 per cent) of the food insecure were aged between 18 and 44 years, compared with 15 per cent of adults aged 65 years or older.
  • Food insecurity and obesity are strongly associated with each other. This is called the food insecurity - obesity paradox. More than one in three adults in Victoria who were obese also experienced food insecurity.
  • Food insecure adults are 2.5 times more likely to have poor physical health and 4 times more likely to have poor mental health, compared with adults who are not food insecure.
Food insecurity is deemed to exist ‘whenever the availability of nutritionally adequate and safe foods or the ability to acquire acceptable food in socially acceptable ways is limited or uncertain’ (Radimer and Radimer 2002). As is implicit in the definition, food insecurity is not a binary concept and exists along a continuum. In its most severe form, people go without food and this is referred to as ‘food insecurity with hunger’. Less severe forms of food insecurity that we investigate in this report include people worrying about food insecurity and using coping strategies such as relying on unhealthy low-cost food to avoid going without food. These less severe forms of food insecurity are collectively referred to as food insecurity without hunger.

For the first time, this report investigates food insecurity in Victoria and explores its underlying determinants and associated health outcomes. The report identifies particularly vulnerable populations and local government areas that disproportionately experience food insecurity, providing the evidence base to consider broader policy options and targeted interventions. The report highlights the need for long-term solutions in addition to short-term solutions that relieve food insecurity but do not necessarily address its root causes.