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International food crisis must not take focus from challenges at home, says Robert Tickner on World Red Cross Day, 8 May.

Thursday May 8, 2008

There may be a 'perfect storm' coming for the world's hungry, as low food stocks and high food and oil prices combine to threaten the welfare of millions.

'With food-related riots reported around the globe, on World Red Cross Day we urge Australians to remember that affluence does not make us immune to the global food crisis,' says Robert Tickner, CEO Australian Red Cross.

'An estimated five per cent of the Australian population endure times when they have no food and no money to buy food. In areas of high disadvantage, the figure is significantly higher, and it is the children who are often most vulnerable.'

'If food security is defined as regular access to nutritious, affordable and culturally appropriate food for individuals and communities - then there are disadvantaged people in communities in Australia who are already in crisis.'

'There is no simple one-off solution. This is a complex problem and it's not enough to simply hand out food to people in need, although we must continue this while it is so urgently needed,' adds Mr Tickner.

Red Cross works with schools and communities to set up and run Good Start Breakfast Clubs across the country, serving nutritious breakfasts to children who might otherwise go without, and delivering food education programs to children, parents and the wider community. There are now more than 220 of these clubs, serving upwards of 650,000 meals annually.

'We are already developing ways to support people to improve the way they shop, cook, eat, plan, budget and exercise,' says Mr Tickner. 'It is through these mechanisms that we can make the changes required for people to improve their wellbeing, reduce their vulnerabilities and live longer, healthier lives.'

'It is encouraging that we are now asking questions about how to address the issue of food security internationally. But we must not overlook the very real problem in our own backyard,' says Mr Tickner.