Hunger might only be seen in developing countries right? Wrong – there is growing awareness of hunger in wealthier countries including New Zealand. The truth is many low-income families – and even some wealthier ones – cannot be sure of getting enough food each day. About 60 percent of New Zealand households are classed as ‘food secure’. Around a fifth of New Zealanders are only sometimes able to eat properly.
Different sections of society experience different levels of food security. Māori and Pasifika peoples experience hunger to a greater degree than other New Zealanders. Same story for people on low incomes and for women. Low-income families struggle to pay rent, heating and transport costs – often they’re fixed costs. So food is the only item they can compromise on, and cut back on. In this kind of situation, children are particularly at risk.
The New Zealand Council of Christian Social Services says the demand for help from places like Church and community foodbanks and soup kitchens is increasing. Meanwhile, government agencies are tightening up their criteria. Work and Income now asks beneficiaries who seek more than two food grants in a year to show that they have taken steps to budget better and increase their income. But, a 2010 University of Otago study found that people on low incomes do not budget differently to others. The most important factor for food security is having enough money to pay the bills.