Rising food prices are changing what we eat

Campaigning for change article written on the 15 Jun 2011

Photo: Lara McKinley/OxfamAUS

Australians and people around the world are changing what they eat because of the rising cost of food. We’ve just received the results of our global food survey, and it seems that 62% of Australians are no longer eating the same foods they did two years ago, 39% of them attributing this to rising food prices.

The survey involved 16,000 people in 17 countries including Australia, Brazil, Germany, Ghana, Guatemala, India, Kenya, Mexico, Netherlands, Pakistan, Philippines, Russia, South Africa, Spain, Tanzania, UK and the USA.

Globally, 54% of overall respondents surveyed said they are not eating the same food as they did two years ago – the period before the current food price crisis began – and 39% of those who said their diet had changed blamed the rising price of food.

In Australia, this may mean we avoid bananas and instead buy apples, but in developing countries, with many millions of people spending up to 80% of their income on food, rising food prices means going without.

Interestingly, the two most important factors concerning Australians about what they eat are the cost of food and how healthy and nutritious it is.

Climate change has also clearly taken hold as a major issue for many Australian households and their budgets, with 38%l indicating that changed weather patterns and catastrophic events (floods, cyclones, etc) is the most important factor affecting our food supply. This is well in front of other factors including “the actions of big companies” (seen by 24% to be the most important) and “the price of oil and transport” (just 14%).

“Food is one of life’s greatest pleasures and one of our most fundamental human rights but our diets are changing fast and for too many people it is a change for the worst. Large numbers of people in Australia and especially in the world’s poorest countries are cutting back on the quantity or quality of the food they eat because of rising food prices.” – Oxfam Australia Executive Director Andrew Hewett

Separate interviews conducted by Oxfam in Australia revealed interesting consumer trends including a high proportion of Australians growing some of the food they eat. Among the Australians included in these additional interviews was Masterchef Australia winner and GROW campaign ambassador Julie Goodwin.

“The important factor for me when I am choosing food for my family is that it has got to be healthy. It has got to be nutritious, I like it to be fresh, and I don’t like to serve them a lot of processed food,” – Julie Goodwin.

Similar additional interviews conducted by Oxfam overseas provide further anecdotal evidence that many people in developing countries are either eating less food, eating cheaper items or enjoying less diversity in their diets as a result of rising food prices.

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