Still serving hot soup? Two hundred years of a charitable food sector in Australia: a narrative review

Rebecca Lindberg, Jillian Whelan, Mark Lawrence, Lisa Gold, Sharon Friel

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


    Objective: Despite the importance of the charitable food sector for a proportion of the Australian population, there is uncertainty about its present and future contributions to wellbeing. This paper describes its nature and examines its scope for improving health and food security. Methods: The review, using systematic methods for public health research, identified peer-reviewed and grey literature relevant to Australian charitable food programs (2002 to 2012). Results: Seventy publications met the criteria and informed this paper. The sector includes food banks, more than 3,000 community agencies and 800 school breakfast programs. It provides food for up to two million people annually. The scope extends beyond emergency food relief and includes case management, advocacy and other support. Weaknesses include a food supply that is sub-optimal, resource limitations and lack of evidence to evaluate or support their work towards food security. Conclusions: The sector supports people experiencing disadvantage and involves multiple organisations, working in a variety of settings, to provide food for up to 8% of the population. The limits on the sector's capacity to address food insecurity by itself must be acknowledged so that civil society, government and the food industry can support sufficient, nutritious and affordable food for all.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)358-365
    JournalAustralian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health
    Issue number4
    Publication statusPublished - 2015


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