The cost of living in the ACT is pushing more Canberrans into food insecurity, according to UNSW Canberra researcher Luke Craven.

Dr Craven has welcomed a new report by the ACT Council of Social Services (ACTCOSS), which has found more than 25,000 people in the Canberra are experiencing food stress.

This means they spend at least 30% of their household income on food, compared to 14% within the average household.

While the average income in the ACT is relatively high, so is the cost of living. The report notes that this has a significant impact on those living on a below-average income.

“While food affordability is an important element of food security, low income households in the ACT are put at risk of food insecurity because incomes are not adequate to cover all essential costs of living, including housing, transport, energy and health care,” Dr Craven said.

“The reality is that rising cost of living continues to hit Canberra’s low-income households hardest. In particular, over the past year utilities prices in Canberra rose the most out of any state or territory and well above the national rate.”

Dr Craven is Chief Investigator for FoodLab Sydney, a collaboration of local government, universities, community organisations and education providers working together to identify the strategies and resources needed to support individuals’ participation, employment and entrepreneurship in Sydney’s food ecosystem.

The FoodLab model originated in Detroit in 2013 to combat the food insecurity issues stemming from the city’s economic decline. Members of the group work together to design and maintain systems that provide healthy and nutritious food to the community.

“Models like FoodLab Sydney are gaining momentum across the world, and with this report just out from ACTCOSS, the time is ripe for us to think about this model in the ACT,” Dr Craven said.

“While there are a range of organisations in Canberra doing phenomenal work to provide emergency food relief to families in need, these programs are insufficient and inadequate for addressing the root causes of food insecurity, such as economic disadvantage, social exclusion and rising inequality.”

Dr Craven said while the government should work to improve the availability of emergency food assistance, the impact of these services will be most effective when policies also address the root causes of food insecurity.

FoodLab Sydney’s food business incubator assists participants from all backgrounds and levels of education in developing a career or business in food - expanding inclusion in the food system, creating new economic development opportunities, and empowering individuals and communities.

Find out more about FoodLab Sydney here.