Many people might be surprised that a person in Australia cannot afford $12 per week to have meals every day. But it is a reality in Australia that refugees or asylum seekers (AS) are reaching to this country for better lives. The social workers in the field of poverty alleviation programs have reported that many asylum seekers have difficulty in accessing sufficient food for survival, especially culturally appropriate food suited for their respective ethnic regions (Committee on World Food Security, 2012). Both males and females of various regions of the world seek asylum in Australia and face food insecurity problems.
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The demographic profile of AS shows that most of them are from Africa and Asia, less than thirty years old, have only post-secondary education as their highest academic achievement, have no personal income to meet their sustenance and have average health conditions. Their psychological profile indicates that they have some emotional problems in life. Their household size ranges from one member to four members and most do not have a functioning kitchen in their dwelling place. Another most disturbing fact identified by the health professionals is that about 90 per cent of AS are facing food insecurity along with experiencing hunger (Committee on World Food Security, 2012). About twenty per cent of the AS are able to get just one meal per day. Most food insecurity issues are aggravated by the lack of money with the AS and they do not have the means to earn money. Most asylum seekers live in poverty.
According to WHO, Food and nutrition insecurity is an inability of a person to obtain the required quantity and quality of nutritional and safe food. This includes the inability to access food that is socially or culturally appropriate. The reasons provided for the increased risk of food insecurity of the AS in Australia are lack of opportunity for employment, lack of access to social security, and inability to gain the government‘s attention.
According to FAO (Food and Agriculture organization), food security is determined by four factors i.e. availability, access, utilization and stability of food (FAO, 2008). Food availability refers to the real availability of food in the markets, farms or food donation schemes. Food access refers to a person’s ability to acquire or produce food. Food utilization refers to access to cooking facilities that allow preparing food safely. Stability refers to the ability to access food over time.
The major determinants of food security are discussed below.
With respect to the availability dimension of food security, there are six determinants that affect food security. The determinants of availability factors include the availability of food in outlets such as markets, farmhouses and foodservice providers. The inclement weather, lack of transport connectivity and food storage facilities are the major reasons behind the unavailability of outlets. The second determinant of food security is the price of food commodities. Multiple food outlets, farmers and food-producing pockets enable the market to control the prices of the food and help the consumers to afford the food (Renzaho & Mellor, 2012). In regions where single sources of food suppliers are present, the pricing is unaffordable to the AS. Location of the food outlets is the third factor of availability; Centralized food markets and supermarket culture increases the risk of food insecurity to the AS, as they do not have access to these resources.
Food access determinants include social support, financial resources, transportation to outlets, and mobility. Social support refers to the preparedness of the formal institutions and informal groups that are inclined to provide food to the needy, especially the AS. Lack of employment and financial support from the institutions is the major cause of food insecurity to the AS. AS who are trapped in regions where there is fewer transportation facilities are likely to experience insecurity and those who have access to mobility are more likely to access food.
Determinants of Utilization of food include the factors such as skill in cooking, ability to produce food to meet the children’s preferences, having sufficient storage facilities at the place of residence, and access to cooking resources and facilities. The stability of food availability depends on many factors such as appropriate weather, access to farming technologies, transportation of food, presence of food processing industry, etc.
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A large body of information is accumulated regarding the impacts of food insecurity on health and the underprivileged communities. Health researchers have identified that there is a correlation between food insecurity and the poor health of the victims. For example, people who are exposed to food insecurity have poor nutrition, increased risks of cardiovascular diseases, the likelihood of emotional problems, and increased risk of being hospitalized. Among the children population, there are risks of behavioural problems and the developmental outcomes are stunted. In the women population, the risk of chronic illness is high due to lack of nutritional food, and some women become obese. Though food insecurity affects many communities, the households that have low incomes, who are unemployed and have dilapidated housing are the most affected by the insecurity (Ramsey, Giskes, Turrell, and Gallegos, 2012).
Even though Australia supplies half of its agricultural products to other parts of the world, there are many food security problems to the normal population as well the underprivileged such as the AS (O’Reilly, O’Shea, & Bhusumane, 2012). The current food supply system has issues in the delivery of a healthy diet to the Australian residents. In order to cover the issues related to food security, especially the nutritional imbalances, some alternate approaches are suggested here.
It is well established that the food systems are closely related to economic systems such as employment, health, education, welfare, etc., integrated programs to tackle the issues is missing in many initiatives (O’Kane, 2011). It is not adequate to handle the issues singularly or in isolation, there has to be an effective approach that includes social, moral, ethical and economic factors.
Apart from physical management of the food produces, to make the system effective, the following approaches need to be taken which are deeper aspects of food security. The alternative ideas are 1. Inclusion of human rights orientation; 2. Strengthening national securities; 3. Focus on human needs; 4. Promotion of authentic happiness; 5. Enhancing personal capabilities; 6. Maintaining sustainable development; and 7. The practice of environmental ethics.
Human rights orientation: Adequate food is considered a basic human right. As an outcome of the Australian government’s commitment to food security and human rights in various forums, several policies are taken in the direction of implementing effective measures. The policies may be shared with all the stakeholders in the food industry and food chain such as the farmers, transporters, food industries, retailers, health workers, social service organizations etc, With reference to these policies, they must work towards the reduction of waste and contributing a part of their work to supply food to the AS (Barosh, Friel, Engelhardt, & Chan, 2014). By doing this they are not only promoting environmental security but also reducing the insecurity among the underprivileged group.
Strengthening National securities: Though national security issues may appear irrelevant to food security, the Australian government has fixed a mission to preserve a cohesive and resilient society with a strong economy. This can be achieved by developing the resilience of critical infrastructure. The food chain is one of the dimensions of critical infrastructure. By achieving, internal food security, Australia will be able to achieve its mission of a strong economy and society. Irrespective of the nature of communities, a healthy diet will create a healthy society and a stronger nation.
Focus on Human needs: All governments must focus on human needs for achieving sustainable development. One of the national reports has enumerated nine critical human needs that need to be satisfied for a healthy living, which includes subsistence, protection, participation, knowledge, leisure, identity, creation, freedom and affection (O’Kane,2011). A community is poor when its members lack the resources to satisfy any three of these needs. When needs focus come to the government programs, the issues of food insecurity also are likely to reduce because the satisfaction of needs can lead to improvement in the lives of the citizens and residents. In the process of improving all citizens, the needs of the AS also will be addressed.
Promotion of Authentic Happiness: This is an emerging trend in the developmental sphere. The happiness principle is definitely related to the food system because it plays a major role in the well being of a citizen. Availability and access to food are basic to the achievement of happiness. The government may start welfare centres that promote happiness circles which also addresses issues of food security, any citizen or resident of Australia can seek the help of a happiness circle and openly discuss their issues. Through this activity, the government not only collects critical developmental data but also provides value-added services to its citizens. By providing happiness oriented services, the government can empower the AS to be productive and earning members of society.
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Enhancing personal Capabilities: this is another important approach that can help AS victims. The program asks two questions to the individuals’ i.e. what are you actually able to do? And what can you be? The answers to these questions can lead to a set of capabilities and opportunities that may open up for the AS. By directing the attention of the underprivileged to their strengths, the government will be able to empower a large percentage of people in the AS category and make them productive.
Maintaining Sustainable Development: There is rigour in the sustainable development approach i.e., the developmental activities must not only meet the current needs of the people but also must protect the abilities and resources for the future generation (Cardinale, et al 2012). There are two concepts involved in it, first, it must satisfy the needs of the underprivileged, and apply restraint in the use of technological exploitation and social demands on the environment.
Practising Environmental ethics: Environmental ethics is associated with the principle that future humanity depends on the present-day functioning of the ecosystem. Protecting and enhancing the productive capacity of the current ecosystems is critical for the assurance of healthy diets for the people i.e. through natural bio-diversity in agriculture, forestry, food supply systems, etc (Chappell, & LaValle, 2011). It is important for the citizens, governments, and industries to practice environmental ethics through which a healthy food supply chain can be ensured.
These key recommendations are likely to improve the quality of national and local food supply options and increase the productivity of healthy food products.
Though the recommendations appear good on paper, their implementation is going to be difficult as the understanding of the concerns of the AS, the sensitivities of the food chain and the environmental concerns are difficult to comprehend for the local officials (Grindle, 2017). The awareness of the officials and the health workers need to be raised for the implementation of the above projects. Second, the industry representatives may resist the program as it may create disturbances to their established practices or it may add cost to their operations. The social service organizations that work in poverty alleviation and food security issues are more focused on their programs and are unlikely to develop integrated programs. Most governments across the globe are discontinuous and many political changes may happen during the implementation of the programs and sometimes a new government may scrap all the good initiatives towards a nutritional program. The AS and other underprivileged may have distrust towards a nutritional program and may not cooperate with the initiatives of the government. Though these political challenges are expected, the governments have no other choice than to implement the food security programs, as most of the programs are of action research. The project implementers have to be agile and change their tactics to adapt to emerging situations.
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Committee on World Food Security. Global Strategic Framework for Food Security and Nutrition Rome. Rome (ITA): United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization; 2012 Available from: http://www.fao.org/docrep/meeting/026/ME498E.pdf Accessed on 18th April 2018.
United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization. Methods to Monitor the Human Right to Adequate Food. Volume II: An Overview of Approaches and Tools. Rome (ITA): FAO; 2008.
Renzaho AMN, Mellor D. Food security measurement in cultural pluralism: Missing the point or conceptual misunderstanding? Nutrition. 2010; 26(1):1-9.
Ramsey R, Giskes K, Turrell G, Gallegos D. Food insecurity among adults residing in disadvantaged urban areas: Potential health and dietary consequences. Public Health Nutrition. 2012; 15(02):227-37.
O’Reilly S, O’Shea T, Bhusumane S. Nutritional vulnerability seen within asylum seekers in Australia. J Immigr Minor Health. 2012;14(2):356-60.
O’Kane, G. What is the real cost of our food? Implications for the environment, society and public health nutrition. Public Health Nutr. 2011, 15, 268–276.
Barosh, L.; Friel, S.; Engelhardt, K.; Chan, L. The cost of a healthy and sustainable diet—Who can afford it? Aust. N. Zeal. J. Public Health 2014, 38, 7–12.
Chappell, M.J.; LaValle, L.A. Food security and biodiversity: Can we have both? An agroecological analysis. Agric. Hum. Values 2011, 28, 3–26.
Cardinale, B.J.; Duffy, E.J.; Gonzalez, A.; Hooper, D.U.; Perrings, C.; Venail, P.; Narwani, A.; Mace, G.M.; Tilman, D.; Wardle, D.A.; et al. Biodiversity loss and its impact on humanity. Nature 2012, 486, 59–67.
Grindle MS. Politics and policy implementation in the Third World. Princeton University Press; 2017 Mar 14.
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