Our Life Skills program feeds people, but it’s no soup kitchen.
Along the way its a chance to feel included, meet people and access support and care for others.
Hunger in our food rich city
People who are homeless eat on average only 14 meals a week. Many people report skipping meals and having to chose between eating properly and other essential needs such as phone credit or transport costs.
Less than 10% of Melbourne’s homeless eat foods from all five food groups, 73% state that they go to sleep hungry at least once a week, 65% state they have to beg for food and 53% report not eating for two or more consecutive days a week.
Research shows that people who are homeless have limited economic resources to meet all basic living costs and related disadvantages that may impact access to food including limited transport or unsuitable preparation/storage facilities. They also have high reliance on supports such as emergency relief and community meal programs.
There are currently at least 1002 people experiencing homelessness in the City of Melbourne with around 240 people on the street who were sleeping rough/had improvised accommodation, 118 people staying with friends and family, 872 people living in room or boarding houses and 211 in Supported Accommodation Assistance Program (SAAP) accommodation.
Homelessness and access to food
Research by the City of Melbourne shows that for people experiencing homelessness:
- The proximity of emergency relief places within a small area contributes to their ease of accessing food, as it allows them to access meals or food packages without the need for public transport. This is deemed integral for people who are homeless who cannot afford to use public transport or who suffer psychological distress/paranoia when on public transport due to the large crowds and thus avoid its use.
- Psychological conditions such as depression and paranoia leave them with uncertainty as to when and how they would access their next meal.
- Distorted eating habits were apparent for people who are homeless. Homeless individuals reported eating large quantities of food when they were able to due to an uncertainty as to when they would get their next meal. Some go for days without eating and survive on coffee and cigarettes.
- A lack of storage facilities or ability to carry a lot of food around whilst sleeping rough is a barrier for people who are homeless.
- Poor quality, unhealthy foods at emergency food relief centres.
- Some avoid attending soup vans due to their being parked in key places and not wanting to be stigmatized by passers by. There can also be a lack of control and coordination of food handouts by soup vans resulting in a form of chaos.
The issue of food security has long been recognised for populations and individuals in remote communities, but it is only in the last ten years that there has been increased awareness of its existence in the urban setting. Food security is a multidimensional concept and is defined as a state in which:
- All people have equitable access to food;
- Access to food is consistent;
- People can access food from normal channels, and not from emergency relief sources of other coping mechanisms;
- People have access to enough food to meet their dietary requirements for a healthy and active life; and
- The food available is safe, nutritious, culturally appropriate and produced in environmentally sustainable ways that promote strong communities