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MWA Funding for Food Security Pilot

The Monash Warwick Alliance Research Catalyst Fund grant provided Dr Martine Barons and Dr Sue Kleve with seed funding so they could research systems that would help in decision-making where the evidence and causes of food insecurity are uncertain.

Read More Research from Dr Barons and Kleve

How did this work?

Current approaches to addressing household food insecurity are not working - it is a pressing public health problem and is common even in high-income countries. It is usually tackled by providing emergency food relief which neither prevents nor addresses the causes of food insecurity. What is needed is a range of interventions and policies to address the causes.

Developing Decision Making Systems for Local Government

Making decisions and developing policies that address food insecurity is complex. It is difficult to build a precise understanding of the causes of food insecurity as the data and evidence available varies in quality, precision and comes from a range of sources. In their pilot study Drs Barons and Kleve wanted to harness community expertise to include in their food Insecurity Decision Support System (IDSS) model. This model accommodated uncertain evidence and indicated the most effective intervention when allowing for cost.

Harnessing Community Expertise at a Time of Pandemic

To test the real-world application of the model, the study needed to engage and consult with a wide group of stakeholders and ensure it described the causes of food insecurity. To identify any gaps in the causes of food insecurity, and to refine the model, both academics consulted their networks of policy makers and food security projects, as well as local government in their respective countries. Although the pandemic constrained some elements of the study – including data collection and face-to-face engagement and interviews – the pilot has revealed additional elements that should be included in future iterations of the IDSS model.

Mapping the Causing of Food Insecurity

It is now clear that the costs of cooking and food preparation equipment must be accounted for within the ‘cost of living’ element of the model. The researchers have defined a minimum food equipment standard to help charities and policymakers provide for this need. It is also clear that, for an Australian IDSS, the distance of food shops relative to homes and the availability of transport has a greater influence than that in the UK. These findings already inform the evaluation of the Council Food Strategy Plan within Cardinia Shire Council and they are schedule to be shared with Warwickshire Food Forum, Coventry Food Forum and UK community organisers who contributed to the study.

“Its a ripple effect. it only requires one thing to go wrong to tip that person into food insecurity. People on a low income, or waiting for a benefit delay have to prioritise where their available funds need to be spent. Housing cost tend to be paid first leaving little or no money for food.” - Warwickshire Council Stakeholder

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