A first-of-a-kind food security survey of predominately central Victorian youth has found many have experienced food insecurity.
Commissioned by Bendigo Foodshare, the YouFoods Insights survey found that 71 per cent of people aged 16 to 24 year experienced food insecurity in the past two year but only 12 per cent accessed food relief services.
Bendigo Foodshare youth ambassador Sam Kane said the survey has quantified what the food relief organisation believed anecdotally.
"A mix of unstable working conditions, loss of work, casualised work and study pressures on young people mean that sourcing food has become a really big problem," Mr Kane said.
The onset of the coronavirus pandemic triggered a new wave of food insecurity among young people, the survey found.
More than one third of people aged 21 to 24 years old some form of food insecurity since the pandemic began, while this group was more likely to ration food to save money and skip meals.
Bendigo Foodshare manager Bridget Bentley said the survey results validated the challenges of food security of young people.
"Barriers to access for young people included embarrassment in asking for help and being unsure what to do when they are struggling," Ms Bentley said.
"Maintaining open dialogue, using more inclusive language and sharing stories from young people accessing the service are measures we can immediately implement to improve access."
Education programs are set to form part of Bendigo Foodshare's long-term response to the survey, according to Ms Bentley.
"In addition to more exposure and education about food security, the chance for young people to learn how to grow, cook and share food is pivotal in decreasing food insecurity in this demographic.
"We don't want this to be a piece of research that sits on the shelf; it has a life beyond this study."
The survey findings coincide with a national report by Foodbank, which found casual workers and international students are "newly food insecure groups."
For more information about the survey and it's findings, click here.
To access Bendigo Foodshare, contact 5444 3409.