MORE than 1500 Colac and district residents are going hungry because they lack money, transport, or food skills.
A new study reveals 8.2 per cent of Colac Otway Shire residents ran out of food at some point in the past year, and were unable to replace it.
The figure from Community Indicators Victoria represents 1668 people from the shire’s total population of 20,345.
The statewide figure was six per cent.
Health and community leaders have vowed to develop an action plan to improve food security in the shire, including tacking affordability and transport issues.
Colac Area Health, Otway Health and the Colac Otway Shire Council have combined to ask people about food security concerns and create an action plan to tackle the issue.
CAH health promotion co-ordinator Lauren Fitzgerald led the study with Otway Health’s Jess Dorney and Colac Otway Shire Council’s Greg Fletcher.
Ms Fitzgerald said they studied the shire’s community profile, looked at food availability in the region, did a food basket survey at supermarkets and stores, and interviewed and surveyed residents, business leaders and health professionals.
She said the study showed food cost was the biggest issue among 280 people who responded to a survey at 27 locations.
“Then we completed 38 interviews with community leaders and health professionals asking them what they perceived the problems are for our community,” Ms Fitzgerald said.
“The main issues on that were lack of transport to fresh produce, limited food skill and knowledge, and the cost of food as well,” she said.
Ms Fitzgerald said the data also showed 89.1 per cent of Colac and district residents failed to eat enough vegetables daily, while 54.4 per cent didn’t eat enough fruit each day.
She said 84 per cent of food outlets available were take-away shops, restaurants and cafes, while just eight per cent were supermarkets and green grocers.
Colac district families and single parents spend more than 30 per cent of their income benefits on food, according to the basket survey.
Ms Fitzgerald, Ms Dorney and Mr Fletcher led a forum last week, which brought together health professionals, council and community leaders to discuss food security and the key findings of the assessment.
“It was great to see community leaders, health professionals and council under the one roof working together to address the issue of food security in our catchment,” Ms Dorney said.
“This needs assessment has been over 12 months in the making, it was great to finally share what we had found with our community – we understand that we need to work together to achieve positive food outcomes for the Colac Otway Shire,” Ms Fitzgerald said.
“Feedback from the forum will be drafted into an action plan in the coming weeks and we will pull together a smaller group who will work within our community to achieve this plan,” she said.