© Getty ImagesSurvey finds 20% of Australians went hungry over the year.
One in five Australians went hungry once over the past year, according to a new survey that also finds demand for food bank services has increased by more than 20% across Australia in 12 months.
As welfare groups demand an increase to Newstart to combat poverty among the unemployed, the annual Foodbank Hunger report found in the past year 21% of Australians ran out of food and were unable to buy more, up from 18% in the 2018 survey.
"That is the equivalent of five million people," the report reads. "At least once a week, around half of the people skip a meal (55%) or cut down on the size of their meals to make their food go further.
"At least once a week, three in 10 (30%) food insecure Australians go a whole day without eating."
Compiled by Foodbank, which provides food and groceries to charities and school breakfasts, the report relies on two pieces of research: a survey of more than 2,000 charities and other organisations that use food rescue services, and a survey of 1,000 Australians who said they were experiencing food insecurity, conducted by research company McCrindle.
It found that over the past 12 months, the number of people seeking food relief increased by 22%, while only 37% of charities surveyed said they were meeting the full needs of their clients. The growth in demand was highest in the Northern Territory, Queensland and Victoria.
People were most likely to be without food or the means to pay for it due to an unexpected bill or expense (49%), the report says, followed by a low income or pension (42%) and housing costs (34%).
Women were at greater risk of food insecurity, with 27% reporting an experience going hungry compared with 18% of men.
In addition, more than half of the women (53%) surveyed said they had experienced domestic violence, while 49% said they had been sole parents at some stage in their lives.
Elizabeth Koudakpo, 24, was born in a refugee camp in Ghana and is of Togolese background. When she came to Australia with her parents, Koudakpo found herself relying on a school breakfast club.
She said she had known hunger since childhood. "It's always been a part of my life," she said. "When we were coming to Australia, we were really excited. It was like 'greener pastures,'" she said. The last thing you think that you will worry about is food."
Koudakpo's family, including her five siblings, struggled to make ends meet on Centrelink benefits. When she got to university, she subsisted on food handouts offered to students living on campus.
Three years ago, Koudakpo started a charity out of her local church in Blacktown, which provides food parcels to those in need. It also holds a free barbecue on Sundays.
As the report found nationally, Koudakpo said demand for help exceeds supply.
Most of the people seeking help from the charity were women and a large number were single parents, Koudakpo said.
She said clients were a mix of those receiving Centrelink payments, many of whom were refugees and migrants from the African community, as well as people on student visas who could not access welfare benefits.
The Foodbank report says that of those who reported experiencing food insecurity, 50% rationed their food, 55% would skip a meal, and 30% went a whole day without eating.