Food Security Experiences of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Families with Young Children in An Urban Setting: Influencing Factors and Coping Strategies
2. Materials and Methods
2.3. Participant Recruitment
2.4. Initial Discussions
2.5. In-Depth Interviews
3.2. Experiences of Food Insecurity
Food Insecurity, a Normal Experience
There’s not enough money, full stop, to pay for food, to last from payday to payday.(Aboriginal mother with four children, aged 34 years and partnered)
…I’ve seen people put food back. Put things back because they can’t get [afford] that. Or take a milk bottle back to get a smaller bottle of milk. Yes, you do see it around.(Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander father of two children, aged 36 years and partnered)
3.3. Influencing Factors
3.3.1. Major Influencing Factors
When Money is Tight
Sometimes we have to be tight [with money] when the big bills (electricity, car repayments) come in and choose less expensive foods to buy.(Aboriginal mother of three children, 25 years and partnered)
Don’t have real problems with food [having enough to eat] or with money. Only time may have to get tight with the budget is when the big bills come in. This just means cutting back on luxury items.(Aboriginal father of one child, 38 years and partnered)
Often the bill would come in and we would go and do a shop and then make that shop stretch to the next pay to pay the bill. I would consider putting food in people’s guts (stomachs) more important than paying bills. If you don’t pay the bill on time, there’s a late fee $30, $40 dollars. Might as well pay it late, that’s how I would look at it.(Aboriginal father of one child, 38 years, partnered)
I have three boys and you know, they eat a lot. One loaf of bread eaten for breakfast! I don’t think we get enough money and I can’t pay for all the food from my basic card Basic card (similar to a bank key card. A portion of income managed individuals’ payments are deposited into a basic card to purchase food and other essential household items only. (Source: http://www.humanservices.gov.au/customer/services/centrelink/income- management).(Aboriginal mother of four children, 34 years and partnered)
I work full-time, but don’t get paid much. My partner works when he gets work and we also rely on government money [Centrelink payments]. The money that we do get seems to just cover the rent, food and basic necessities. Rent and food are expensive in Darwin. We also have a car to run and that’s also expensive.(non-Indigenous mother of four children, 30 years and partnered)
Sometimes they [ex-partners] don’t pay [child maintenance] regularly and that throws us out with budgeting for the fortnight. I don’t think they [ex-partners] understand how hard it makes things sometimes.(Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander mother of three children, 38 years, single)
If my husband wasn’t on a good wage and he didn’t earn enough to cover the bills and other expenses, we would definitely be struggling.(Aboriginal mother of one child, 27 years and partnered)
…it’s becoming very expensive. Everything has just gone up…and not just food prices. It’s electricity, phone, fuel [for car], the cost of living in general has gone up a lot. You know, we [participant and his wife] are aware of how difficult it could be if one of us lost our job. And we don’t have much in savings. And if there is an economic downturn that affects us, that’s why we’re trying to pay off as much of our mortgage now just to make sure that we have a buffer.(Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander father of two children, 36 years, partnered)
Accessing Food and Enough Food
…I’ve always planned a budget to include extras to make sure money for additional expenses such as car maintenance, power bills, etc. Though, power bills have gone up. Not because we’re using more power, just the cost of power. Other things (essential items) are going up as well. You know, price of food, petrol, rent. So much pressure on families just to live. In our budget we always make sure the rent and bills are paid and there’s money for food. You know, the kids come first. Make sure they’re clothed, fed, school fees paid. Sometimes I may need new clothing, shoes, or whatever, but will go without to make sure the kids have what they need. Just make sure I have what I need budgeted for and save for it.(Aboriginal mother with three children, 25 years and partnered)
…Sometimes things [budget] blows out and I think I mentioned it before. One month you might get your electricity bill and that. Plus, we have child care fees and that’s a big chunk out of that as well.(Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander father of two children, 36 years and partnered)
It’s ok. I don’t get much humbug (Humbug is a term predominantly used by Indigenous Australians in a way that means ‘to pester’, as in being pestered (humbugged) by someone for money) now [since introduction of basics card] for money and have enough money for food.(Aboriginal grandmother, carer of 10 grandchildren, 44 years, widowed)
Money Gets Wasted
…there are also problems with drinking [alcohol] and gambling. It makes me wonder sometimes, when people say they have no money to pay bills or buy food. They smoke [cigarettes], drink [alcohol] and gamble and don’t seem to understand this causes problems. When you have limited money, need to be smart about how to use it.(Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander mother of three, 38 years and single)
“Other families find it hard too [money problems]. That’s why some people sell drugs. Need more money. … have problems with gambling and drinking [alcohol]. Maybe drugs. A lot of money gets wasted. Make me sorry for the kids”.(Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander mother of five, 29 years, partnered)
My brother is bad. All he wants to do is drink grog [alcohol]. Then he gets hungry and comes here. Eats all my kids’ tucker [food]. He takes money from me and Nanna. Other people after him cos’ he steal grog [alcohol] from them.(Aboriginal mother of two, 25 years and partnered)
Getting to the Shops
[I] find it hard with shopping since local supermarket closed. Shopping Centre not within walking distance but was a short drive from my house and [I] relied on a lift or taxi that didn’t cost very much. Now [I] have to pay more for taxis, as [I] travel further to go shopping.(Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander mother of four children, 33 years and single)
We didn’t have a car before but have one now. Made it easier to get around and do the shopping.(Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander mother of five children, 29 years and partnered)
I don’t have transport problems and can go to the places I want to shop. Usually follow the bargains and try to buy in bulk.(Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander mother of three, 38 years and single)
Hard to take the bus with a baby and a two year old to go shop or clinic.(Aboriginal mother of two children, 25 years and partnered)
3.3.2. Minor Influencing Factors
Don’t Want the Kids to Miss out
We have problems sometimes with having enough money …only when we have visitors or things the kids want to go to, like the [Darwin] Show. All the other kids going to the Show and our kids don’t want to miss out. It’s only fair for them, they only kids and should enjoy themselves.(Aboriginal Grandmother of 10 grandchildren, 44 years and widowed)
Kid’s like to buy from the school shop [tuckshop] like the other kids. Sometimes I really don’t have enough money but, give them anyway. I don’t want other kids at school to think my kids are poor.(Aboriginal mother of seven children, 26 years and single)
I Used to Get Sad a Lot
Real shame job [embarrassed] for me to go shop and find out don’t have enough money on the card [Basic card] to pay for groceries. Have to leave everything—trolley and all—with everyone watching. Make me real shame.(Aboriginal mother of two children, 25 years and partnered)
I used to get sad a lot and not able to look after the kids properly.(Aboriginal mother of three children, 34 years and single)
The House Needs Fixing
…There are no flyscreens on some of the windows and in others there are holes. The rats get in at night and sometimes [we] can see and hear them running in the house. Sometimes they run over us in our sleep!(Aboriginal mother of four children, 34 years and partnered)
…We’ve told him [owner] about the kitchen cupboards falling apart and other problems in the house. Just doesn’t seem to want to do anything about it….(Aboriginal mother of two children, 29 years and partnered)
We can’t use the benches properly ‘cause the tiles are broken and dirty (bench top is tiled). The stove doesn’t work either”. We told housing [public housing authority] we have problems months ago, but they still haven’t come to fix them. All we do is wait and see what happens.(Aboriginal mother of four children, 34 years and partnered)
…we buy frozen vegies as well, because they last longer and we have them on hand to put in our food [cooking]. Well that helps with us. So, having a freezer helps as well [with food storage].(Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander father of two children, 36 years and partnered)
I have what I need in the house. [I] Need a freezer. That way can buy more meat and put away, instead of going to the shop every day to buy meat for dinner.(Aboriginal mother of seven children, 26 years and single)
3.4. Impact on Food Selection
3.4.1. Not Everyone Can Afford to be Healthy
[I] Find it hard sometimes to eat healthy like have fruit and vegetables every day. Sometimes [it’s a] bit tight with money and [I] buy food that fills you up. Fruit doesn’t [fill you up] and it’s expensive. …. Always hear about why important to eat healthy to stop diseases like diabetes, but when you try to, it’s very expensive.(Aboriginal mother of three children, 29 years and partnered)
We’re told to eat right, exercise and be healthy, but it’s hard when everything costs so much to be healthy. Not everyone can afford to be healthy.(Torres Strait Islander mother of four children, 30 years and partnered)
I like my children to eat fresh food and foods that are not over processed. Also, processed foods tend to have a lot of sugar and that’s no good.(Aboriginal mother of two children, 29 years and partnered)
3.4.2. Something to Fill Our Bellies
I make sure my kids are fed and don’t go without. Some of our meals are not that healthy, but at least we have something to fill our bellies.(Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander mother of three, 38 years and single)
We can afford food, but not always healthy food. Sometimes, have hamper [tinned corned beef] and rice with bread for dinner. It’s filling and the kids are not hungry.(non-Indigenous mother of four children, 30 years and partnered)
…Usually try to buy in bulk and cook meals in bulk to freeze and use later. Therefore, make sure my daughter never goes without food.(non-Indigenous mother of one, 28 years and single)
3.4.3. Making the Meal Stretch
…If not enough food for each meal, cook more rice or have bread. This fills you up. Only time this happens is when we have unexpected visitors at dinnertime [evening meal] and we have to stretch the food so everyone has something”.(Aboriginal mother of three children, 34 years and single)
I make sure kids always eat weet-bix [wheat biscuits breakfast cereal] in the morning before go to school. Have something at school from the shop [school tuckshop] and when they get home usually have bread with something on it. Boys eat a lot and bread is cheap and fills them up.(Aboriginal mother of seven children, 26 years and single)
It’s sort of a standard way (having rice) of making the meal stretch. Not that having enough food is an issue. But when we have leftovers, it’s a, way of making sure we have enough.(Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander father of two, 36 years and partnered)
3.5. Coping Strategies
3.5.1. Live with Mum and Dad, They Help Out a Lot
Sometimes have problems with money. Especially when the bills come in at once and don’t always have enough to buy food. My three kids and me live at home with my mum and dad. This makes it easier for when I run out of money. Mum and dad have money for food.(Aboriginal mother of three children, 34 years and single)
My partner has family here and if we don’t have food, or money for food, we go over to family’s place for dinner [evening meal]. Or if someone has money, we’ll lend money. Our home is open to family if we have food and someone wants something to eat or money. But I always make sure we have enough for ourselves first.(non-Indigenous mother of four, 30 years and partnered)
We do have problems with food sometimes. Especially when we get big bills and there’s not enough money for food. Usually, go to my mum and dad to ask for money or food. Glad I have them. Don’t know where I would go otherwise for help.(Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander mother of five children, 29 years and partnered)
I am not from Darwin and don’t really have family here. My mother is visiting and I know some people from the community where I come from. Bit lonely sometimes.(Aboriginal mother of seven children, 26 years and single)
We haven’t relied on family to help us out with feeding us, only with looking after the baby and other household chores when my wife was sick.(Aboriginal father of one child, 38 years and partnered)
We used to be in government housing, but now me and my partner earn too much and had to give up our house and find a private house to rent. But we can’t afford to pay private rent. Too much and won’t have much money left for food and other things we need. Me, my partner and the kids moved in with my mum and dad. That way we can save money to buy our own house.(Aboriginal mother of three children, 29 years and partnered)
My ex [partner] moved out about 2 months ago and it was hard paying the rent and bills, so [I] decided to move out to Palmerston and be with my family. Too expensive living in Darwin. [I] Don’t know how other people like me can live there.(non-Indigenous mother of one child, 28 years and single)
3.5.2. We Don’t Have It as Bad as other Families
We don’t have it bad as some families. At least we always have something to eat, bills are paid and [have] petrol for the car”.(Non-Indigenous mother of four children, 30 years and partnered)
“We are doing better than some other families. I know some have to ask for food vouchers [from Centrelink] to buy groceries.(Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander mother of three children, 38 years and single)
It makes you feel a bit easier to know that your situation is bad, but that someone else is worse off to make yourself feel better or make light of your current situation. I don’t know, but I think that it’s across the board [whole population].(Aboriginal father of one child, 38 years and partnered)
5.1. Strengths and Limitations
Conflicts of Interest
|Limited control over own money.|
Anxious when going shopping, as don’t know how much money available on basic card for spending.
Feelings of shame/embarrassment/anger when:
|Tell me more about your experiences with the Basic Card.|
Why do you like/dislike being Income managed?
How does this make you feel?
|Housing problems (more around maintenance)||House needs fixing, takes a long time before something is done, participant has little control over the situation.|
Limited availability of public housing, hard to find a place to live.
Sense of feeling powerless, beyond people’s control
|Tell me about your house. Is everything good? i.e., windows, benches, etc.?|
Does anything need to be fixed?
|Food preparation and cooking facilities||Food storage, preparation and cooking facilities:||Do you like to cook?|
Can you tell me about your experiences with cooking (good/ok).
What stops you from cooking?
|Money problems||About not having enough money to fulfil own and families’ needs/wants/requirements.|
Impact of the cost of living in Darwin and Palmerston—everything is expensive.
Limited money, prioritise what spending on
Always make sure the children are fed, don’t go without.
|Do you have enough money for what you need?|
If no money problems/worries, what do you do to make sure everything is good?
Can you tell me about your money problems/worries?
How often do you have money problems/worries?
Are money problems ongoing (all the time)?
When you have money problems, how do you prioritise spending?
Are there things that do you do to cope with the problem?
|Social Inclusion||Not wanting money problems to impact on children’s lives to point where excluded from social events, outings, what their peers have, etc.||Is it important to you and your kids that you don’t miss out on what other families have?|
What are some of the things you do to make sure you and your kids don’t miss out on having what others have?
|Budgeting||Always make sure money for food, even if not healthy.|
An already tight budget for food and regular expenses. Additional expenses puts a strain on the budget therefore, spend less on food and tend to eat less healthy.
|How do you make sure there is enough money for things you/your family need between paydays?|
Does this always work, or do you sometimes find it hard?
What else do you do to try and make it work?
|Filler Foods||Low cost, high calorie foods to stretch meals and ‘fill you up’—bread and rice.|
E.g of filler foods for a meal—cheap tinned meats (hamper) and rice with bread.
|Do you have enough food at each meal for everybody? What do you do to make sure everyone has enough food?|
Tell me about these foods (filler foods) and the reasons you choose them?
|Wellbeing||2 participants talked about feeling sad.|
As mentioned previously, feelings of shame, embarrassment, anger, anxiety, powerless.
|If possible, find out more if these feelings are related to money worries/problems.|
How do you feel when you don’t have enough money?
Do you think about having enough money a lot?
|Other’s worse off||Acknowledge other families experiences similar problems and probably more worse off.|
However, also put this down to possible use of drug and alcohol and this is where money is diverted to.
|From what you know, do you think your family ‘has it hard’ compared to other families?|
|Transport||Few transport issues to go places to shop, particularly when relying on public transport and travelling with small children||What are your experiences with having regular transport to go shopping?|
|Social problems||Identify money (income) diverted to social problems such as drug, alcohol and gambling impact on having enough food.||What are your thoughts on why some families may experience problems with having enough food?|
|Food Shopping||Transport and the amount of shopping undertaken impacts on where people shop.|
Others that ‘plan’ where they shop according to where bargains are—buy bulk.
|Do you worry about going food shopping (regularly)?|
Do you plan where you will shop and what you will buy before you go?
Are you able to go to the shops when you want to?
|Support Networks||Families rely on extended family and friends’ networks for support and ‘fill the gaps’||Tell me more about the support you have when you are having difficulties?|
Do you think you rely on this support network?
Where would you go if you didn’t have this support network?
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|Characteristic||Initial Discussions (N = 30)||In-Depth Interviews (N = 6)|
|Torres Strait Islander||1||0|
|Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander||6||1|
|Care giver||Parent (mother/father)||27||6|
|Other (grandmother/foster carer)||3||0|
|Parent age (yrs)||Median (range)||44.5 (17–58)||35 (25–39)|
|Residents in house||Median (range)||6 (3–15)||5.5 (3–10)|
|Number of children by age group (N = 57)||6 to 24 months||19||3|
|25 to 48 months||30||5|
© 2018 by the authors. Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland. This article is an open access article distributed under the terms and conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) license (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/).
McCarthy, L.; Chang, A.B.; Brimblecombe, J. Food Security Experiences of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Families with Young Children in An Urban Setting: Influencing Factors and Coping Strategies. Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2018, 15, 2649. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph15122649
McCarthy L, Chang AB, Brimblecombe J. Food Security Experiences of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Families with Young Children in An Urban Setting: Influencing Factors and Coping Strategies. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health. 2018; 15(12):2649. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph15122649Chicago/Turabian Style
McCarthy, Leisa, Anne B. Chang, and Julie Brimblecombe. 2018. "Food Security Experiences of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Families with Young Children in An Urban Setting: Influencing Factors and Coping Strategies" International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health 15, no. 12: 2649. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph15122649