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Financial impact of Coronavirus leaves Victorian families unable to afford healthy food  

Financial impact of Coronavirus leaves Victorian families unable to afford healthy food  
August 21, 2020

A new VicHealth survey of 2,000 Victorians shows 26% Victorian families have been left to rely on unhealthy food due to home budget pressures during the first Coronavirus lockdown.

The survey shows single-parent families and those on low incomes have been hardest hit – 49% of families earning less than $40,000 a year and 38% single-parent families resorted to cheap, unhealthy food due to a shortage of money.

Alarmingly, 27% single-parent families and 11% families on low incomes ran out of food and couldn’t afford to buy more.

VicHealth Chief Executive Dr Sandro Demaio said many families were already facing an uphill battle when Coronavirus hit.

Demaio notes “the ripple effect of this year’s bushfires, drought and Coronavirus pandemic has put significant financial strain on Victorian families, and it’s having a concerning impact on children’s diets.

“All families want their kids to grow up healthy and strong, but this new research shows that due to budget pressures many are having to rely on cheap, unhealthy food to feed their kids, and some are even going without food.

“We must make delicious, fresh healthy food more affordable and available for Victorian families doing it tough. We know unhealthy food and drinks like soft drinks, chips and sugary cereals are more likely to be discounted than healthy food like fruit and vegetables.

“We also know unhealthy food companies deliberately target their promotions and advertising to families from poorer communities, putting their profits ahead of our health.”

Recent data from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare showed a widening gap between poor and rich communities when it comes to childhood obesity. Kids in low socioeconomic areas were more than twice as likely to be above a healthy weight than those from the highest socioeconomic areas 11% vs 4.4%.

Demaio called for greater financial support from governments to ensure all Victorian kids have the chance to live healthy, happy lives and added “the gap between rich and poor is continuing to widen. Some experts are concerned this generation will be the first in history to live shorter lives than their parents, burdened by type 2 diabetes, heart disease, cancer and other chronic diet-related health problems.

“This year there’s been a hefty increase in the cost of healthy food, like fruit, vegetables, seafood and meats, at a time when families are losing their jobs or having their hours dramatically cut back.

“We must do all we can to support families to ensure they can access and afford to feed their kids healthy food.

“It’s great to see the extension of JobKeeper Payment beyond September but for real impact, the federal government’s Coronavirus Supplement for JobSeeker Payment recipients must also be extended, and the eligibility criteria to include some of the most marginalised people in our society, such as refugees and asylum seekers and migrant workers.

“Governments must ensure that access to healthy, affordable food is a key part of the Coronavirus recovery strategy. This will help keep Victorian families healthy long-term and provide flow-on economic benefits for primary producers and regional communities.”

Next month VicHealth will announce more than $1 million in Partnership Grants for community organisations helping Victorians stay physically and mentally well during the pandemic – this will include funding for initiatives which improve access to affordable, healthy food.

VicHealth will also provide a further $30,000 to non-profit social enterprise The Community Grocer to relaunch its Pakenham market, which was suspended during the Coronavirus pandemic. In-kind support will be provided by Cardinia Shire Council, as part of the Cardinia Food Circles project.

This builds on the $150,000 Partnership Grant VicHealth provided to The Community Grocer in May to help more Victorians access fresh fruit and vegetables, and keep well during this very challenging time.

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2nd August 2020 - Activities halted and facilities closed as Victorian Government introduces Stage four Coronavirus lockdown in Melbourne

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2nd March 2020 - VicHealth’s new This Girl Can campaign focuses on positive feelings

26th February 2020 - VicHealth considers new industry code on unhealthy food advertising to be ineffective

21st January 2020 - VicHealth calls for higher standards on fast food marketing to teenagers and children

19th November 2019 - VicHealth offers new funding to sports clubs

16th August 2019 - VicHealth set to launch a new This Girl Can campaign

19th July 2019 - VicHealth to offer new fun and inclusive sport programs

8th July 2019 - New Chief Executive appointed at VicHealth

1st July 2019 - VicHealth grants provide opportunities for increased community sport participation

9th April 2019 - VicHealth research reveals widespread promotion of alcoholic drinks on social media

4th May 2020 - Australians’ physical activity declines during Coronavirus lockdown

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26th February 2018 - Western Leisure Services introduce innovative healthy eating menus

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