A Sydney conference has heard of a Red Cross program which is successfully addressing food shortages among the asylum seeker community.
Red Cross Team Leader, Food Security Helen Barnard has told the Putting Food on the Table: food security is everyone’s business conference the program has increased asylum seekers’ confidence to prepare meals at home and increased their knowledge of where to locate culturally appropriate food choices.
“With about 5% Australians regularly unable to put adequate food on the table to feed their families, our research shows people seeking asylum live in a continuous state of poverty with food shortages a frequent occurrence,” Ms Barnard said.
“A Red Cross census found almost 40% of people seeking asylum had experienced food insecurity in the preceding 12 months, mainly because of the cost of household bills and low income.
“While in the community awaiting the outcome of their asylum claim, they are often coping with culture shock, language and cultural barriers, finances are often tight, anxiety is high and they are highly vulnerable to food insecurity. They face episodes of limited food availability, and turn to emergency food relief. They also experience health issues compounded by poorer eating habits within an unfamiliar food landscape.”
When they run out of money and food, asylum seekers’ coping strategies include:
• eating less
• getting food or money from friends
• sourcing emergency food packages
• selling off personal items such as shoes
• learning to manage income and reduce phone calls to their home countries
• growing their own food
• eating poorer quality and variety of food
Red Cross developed “A New Place to Taste” for asylum seekers in Adelaide, aiming to support clients to develop basic living and nutrition skills including food safety and storage, healthy eating practices and food budgeting. It took the form of a series of shopping, cooking and gardening sessions, with more than 300 people taking part so far.
The successes have included a measurable improvement in healthy home cooking, food access and knowledge about healthy eating in Australia.
“They reported a general increase in their feelings of social connections to the community. They were generally more confident to shop in the markets and supermarkets, shop within a budget, grow
their own vegetables, and they had started to do so.
“As well they had increased knowledge about where to find fresh fruit and vegetables in their area, healthy cooking, and they intended to incorporate more vegetables into their meals.”
Source: Red Cross Australia