28 August 2013

It will now be easier for young people who are experiencing or at risk of homeless to have access to healthy food and physical activity options.

NSW Health today launched the Yhunger project which aims to reduce food insecurity which occurs when people can’t access adequate food for healthy living.

Dr Jo Mitchell, Director of Centre for Population Health said that food insecurity is a daily reality for young people living below the poverty line.

Young people who have faced significant challenges early on in life like poverty and homelessness often haven’t had the opportunity to learn how to cook,” Dr Mitchell said. 

The Yhunger Kit includes two cookbooks, resources for youth workers including 40 ways to work on food and physical activity with young people, and a series of fact sheets on food and wellbeing for case or group work.

The Yhunger cookbooks contain recipes that are all costed to be under $4 a serve.

"YHunger is a fantastic initiative. These resources will help make the food dollar of people suffering food insecurity stretch further by teaching them how to look after themselves nutritiously on a tight budget” Dr Mitchell said.

“The meals in the cookbooks are nutritious, delicious and quick and easy to make in a wide range of accommodation settings” Dr Mitchell said.

Homeless youth often consume higher amounts of energy-dense, nutrient poor foods and lower amounts of fruits and vegetables. As a result, this group can suffer from overweight or obesity as well as poor nutrition.

 Australian Bureau of Statistic’s data shows that in Australia, 105,237 people were homeless at the time of the 2011 census. 60 per cent of them were aged under 35 years.

In depth interviews with over 50 young people in youth services revealed that:

  • 70% experienced food insecurity on a regular basis
  • food insecurity was characterised by situations of worry and anxiety, a lack of money to buy food and persistent hunger
  • fresh and healthy food choices were consistently viewed to be much more costly
  • many participants identify fresh fruits and vegetables as unaffordable and often unattainable luxury items.

The YHunger project includes two cookbooks, one called ‘Reheat: a cookbook for young people’ and a new one called ‘Made Fresh: more mad feeds’, with more culturally diverse flavours.

The YHunger project was initially developed by staff at the Sydney Local Health District.

All of the new recipes were piloted with 56 young people in participating youth services, including Liverpool Youth Refuge, Glebe Youth Service, Rendu Youth Accommodation, and Stepping Stone House.  <

Miranda Shaw, Acting General Manager, Community Health at Sydney Local Health District said the cookbooks had been well received and delivered on their aim to:

  • be flexible to the different accommodation types, with options to cook 2,4 or 6 serves
  • be affordable on the Youth Allowance, Newstart or Parenting payments with meals able to be made for less than $4 per serve
  • be realistic, quick and easy and only use versatile, in season ingredients that can be used often
  • promote healthy eating in young people, especially an increase in fruit and vegetable intake.

“Step by step illustrations accompany the recipes for young people who have lower literacy and numeracy skills, and/or minimal cooking experience”, Ms Shaw said.

The new Yhunger living skills kit will also offer ideas for youth services to encourage homeless youth to become more physically active.  These include community bike fleets, cycling andbike maintenance courses, fishing trips to learn more about Aboriginal culture, growing a portable garden and active games that can be used in group education.

NSW Health is supporting the state-wide roll-out of Yhunger from 2014 through youth service organisations.

A Yhunger website, where the cookbooks and activities can be downloaded, and small grants to assist youth services achieve better practices in food and physical activity for young people will be included.

Further information on YHunger can be found at www.healthykids.nsw.gov.au/campaigns-programs/yhunger.aspx​​