Taking the Pulse of the Nation (TTPN) surveys the Australian population to capture their sentiments and behaviours related to current economic and social issues
Since 2020, the Taking the Pulse of the Nation (TTPN) survey has collected compelling information on the changing behaviours and attitudes of Australians. Together, Melbourne Institute and Roy Morgan understand the value in capturing the voices of Australians on the issues that matter right now. We use this information to create expert analyses to directly inform social and economic policies for our Nation.
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High rates of food insecurity, but few Australians getting help
A 2020 report estimated that between 4 and 13 percent of the general population are food insecure. As many have documented, food insecurity can serve as a precursor both to poverty and to chronic disease. Where do we stand today on food insecurity? In August 2022, the Taking the Pulse of the Nation (TTPN) survey asked respondents three questions related to whether during the previous three months they: (1) had missed a meal due to lack of money; (2) eaten less than they thought they should due to lack of money; (3) or a member of their family had received free groceries or meals from a food bank, charity or other place that provides free food. Identifying food insecurity as having skipped meals, eating less, or both skipped meals and eating less, the rates we observe in the TTPN far exceed previous estimates of 13 percent across all states. As detailed further below, food insecurity is substantially higher for those aged 18 to 44, women, those reporting high levels of financial stress, and singles both with and without children.
Adults aged 18 to 44 are reporting the highest levels of food insecurity
Close to 45 percent of young adults aged 18 to 24 report some level of food insecurity (Figure 1). Of this, more than half stated that they have been eating less and have also skipped at least one meal over the past three months. Approximately 30 percent of those aged 25 to 34 – and close to 27 percent of those aged 35 to 44 – also reported some level of food insecurity. Among those aged 45 and older, the level of food insecurity drops to less than 15 percent.
Rates of food insecurity are high in most states, with uniformly higher rates for those aged 18 to 44
Tasmania ranks highest in terms of the prevalence of reported food insecurity, followed by New South Wales, Queensland and Victoria (Figure 2). Respondents in all four of these states reported high rates of eating less or a combination of both eating less and skipping a meal. Among adults aged 18 to 44 – even in states with lower levels of food insecurity such as South Australia and Western Australia – food insecurity rates exceed 20 percent.
Food insecurity differs by financial stress, gender and family composition
Individuals reporting financial stress (making ends meet or worse) also reported the highest level of food insecurity (Figure 3). More than 60 percent of those facing financial stress reported higher levels of food insecurity than those who are financially comfortable. Of those aged 18 to 44, close to 70 percent of those reporting high levels of financial stress also reported food insecurity issues. Women were more likely to report both eating less and skipping meals (12.2 percent for women and 8.6 percent for men), especially for those aged 18 to 44 (19 percent for women and 14.5 percent for men). Single respondents with children living at home reported high levels of food insecurity (over 45 percent) followed by single respondents with no children at home.
Despite high levels of food insecurity, receiving free groceries or meals is relatively low
While a high proportion of respondents have reported missing a meal and/or eating less for financial reasons, few of these respondents have received free food or meals (Figure 4). Except for Tasmanian respondents aged 18 to 44, the reported rate generally ranges from 3 to 8 percent. Ten percent of single respondents with children report having received free food, but with a food insecurity rate of 45 percent, this is quite low.
We do not know the full level of services available in each community in terms of providing free food or meals. As such, we do not know the reasons for not seeking out food – whether it’s due to a lack of services, or not wanting to ask for help. These low rates, however, suggest that we should be doing more to address ongoing concerns about food insecurity. Food price inflation has been rising in Australia. In the second quarter of this year it rose to 5.9 percent, representing the fastest rise in food prices since the third quarter of 2011. The findings from the TTPN survey data highlight that just as financial stress remains an issue for many, we should acknowledge food security is an issue in Australia that requires more attention. These findings suggest we may have a serious emerging issue of food insecurity in Australia.
This Taking the Pulse of the Nation insight was authored by Dr Ferdi Botha, Senior Research Fellow at the Melbourne Institute: Applied Economic & Social Research, and Professor A. Abigail Payne, Director of the Melbourne Institute and Ronald Henderson Professor, 6 October 2022.
*Beginning in April 2020, the Taking the Pulse of the Nation (TTPN) was conceptualised and implemented by a group of researchers at the Melbourne Institute: Applied Economic & Social Research. In 2022, the Melbourne Institute and Roy Morgan formed a partnership to extend the running of the TTPN. Each wave includes a set of core questions, as well as additional questions that address current and emerging issues facing Australians. The sample is stratified to reflect the Australian adult population in terms of age, gender, and location. The TTPN Survey uses a repeated cross-sectional design. This report is based on a total of 1,058 respondents from data collected in August 2022. Financial Stress is defined as one’s current financial conditions being reported as making ends meet, feeling moderately financially stressed, or feeling very financially stressed in terms of paying for essential goods and services. Our definition of financial stress includes responses that include the response of “just making ends meet” given slight changes in circumstances, such as an increase in rent, could place the respondent in a precarious financial state. If you are interested in adding questions to the survey or accessing the data, please contact us at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
© The University of Melbourne & Roy Morgan- Melbourne Institute: Applied Economic & Social Research, 2022. This work is copyright. The material may be reproduced and distributed for non-commercial purposes only, subject to the inclusion of an acknowledgement of the source(s).