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Homelessness and nutrition: the need for fresh food

7 Feb , 2018  

Food is something that most of society takes for granted, especially in our cities. In our markets, supermarkets, cafes and restaurants it is abundant and easily available. But for many people, food may not always be accessible and affordable. People who are homeless or in need often go without food1. There may be infrequent availability of food or a lack of facilities to store and prepare nutritious meals, meaning that the cheapest and easiest ways of feeding oneself will often be favoured. Such methods, like packaged products and fast foods, are far from the most nutritious2,3.

Nutrition is a complex topic under normal circumstances, but becomes even more so when put into the context of homelessness. It is difficult to assess the diets of homeless individuals, but studies have suggested that they are often lacking in essential nutrients and fibre, and are high in refined sugars and saturated fats2, . This may leave people with nutritional deficiencies that have the potential to manifest in poor health and more serious health conditions, like heart disease, diabetes, and hypertension4, 5, . Preventative medical services are less utilised by at-risk persons than the general population, which means diseases are often diagnosed at more chronic stages6. Stopping these health issues developing at the root cause is perhaps the most effective and efficient way to combat them.

Hunger impacts on humans in multiple ways. When we go hungry, psychological suffering accompanies physical pain, which can impact on our mental health7. When this combines with a decline in our physical health, it becomes difficult to participate and contribute in a positive way to our families, neighbourhoods and society. Hunger and food insecurity as components of homelessness contribute to overall poor emotional, physical and social wellbeing8.

One way in which we can help out those who are suffering or in need is to provide fresh, nutritious wholefoods to those in need directly, or to organisations that can distribute produce in an effective way.

The Mini Farm Project grows fresh produce for this very purpose. The produce grown on the MFP various landshares is donated to community organisations. From there, the fresh produce is distributed to those in need. This is a valuable contribution to a worthy cause: fresh produce for those in need, to help them achieve great physical and mental health.

 

References:

  1. Crawford B, Yamazaki R, Franke E, Amanatidis S, Ravulo J, Steinbeck K et al. Sustaining dignity? Food insecurity in homeless young people in urban Australia. Health Promotion Journal of Australia. 2014;25(2):71-78.
  2. Turrell G, Bentley R, Thomas L, Jolley D, Subramanian S, Kavanagh A. A multilevel study of area socio-economic status and food purchasing behaviour. Public Health Nutrition. 2009;12(11):2074.
  3. Turrell G, Hewitt B, Patterson C, Oldenburg B, Gould T. Socioeconomic differences in food purchasing behaviour and suggested implications for diet-related health promotion. Journal of Human Nutrition and Dietetics. 2002;15(5):355-364.
  4. Seale J, Fallaize R, Lovegrove J. Nutrition and the homeless: the underestimated challenge. Nutrition Research Reviews. 2016;29(02):143-151.
  5. Koh K, Bharel M, Henderson D. Nutrition for homeless populations: shelters and soup kitchens as opportunities for intervention. Public Health Nutrition. 2015;19(07):1312-1314.
  6. Stafford A, Wood L. Tackling Health Disparities for People Who Are Homeless? Start with Social Determinants. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health. 2017;14(12):1535.
  7. Lee B, Greif M. Homelessness and Hunger. Journal of Health and Social Behavior. 2008;49(1):3-19.
  8. Meiklejohn S, Barbour L, Palermo C. An impact evaluation of the FoodMate programme: Perspectives of homeless young people and staff. Health Education Journal. 2017;76(7):829-841.

 

Elaina bio photo

About Elaina Elder-Robinson

Originally from Northern New South Wales, Elaina is a 21 year old student now living in Brisbane. She is currently in her third year of study at the University of Queensland, where she is completing a Bachelor of Health Sciences majoring in Nutrition. She has a passion for food and nutrition and how it contributes to overall improved health and wellbeing. She believes that food can be medicine and impact immensely on quality of life. She became involved with the Mini Farm Project in 2017 and regularly volunteers at the Camp Hill landshare site. She hopes that the project can help the less fortunate reap the physical and psychological rewards of having a nutritious and nourishing diet.

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