Families in outer Melbourne suburbs struggling to pay bills and put food on the table, survey finds
Almost one in 10 families living in Melbourne's outer growth suburbs could not afford food at least once over the past year.
A new household survey by the City of Whittleseashows increasing pressure on middle-class families in so-called growth corridors, who are struggling to pay utility bills and put food on the table.
"A total of 8.9 per cent of respondent households reported that they had run out of food and had not been able to buy more at least once in the last 12 months," the survey said.
The City of Whittlesea covers almost 500 square kilometres in Melbourne's north and will see its population grow from 186,000 to 300,000 by 2030.
Its issues mirror those in growth areas on city fringes around Australia, where roads, public transport, health and education services are not keeping up with population growth.
The council's Mary Agostino said the survey also showed that about 14 per cent of families in traditionally middle-class areas of the municipality were struggling to afford food.
"Policy and governments have not caught up that something's not right there," Ms Agostino said.
"You've got these really high income-earning families, yet mortgage pressures and all that goes with living there is putting pressure on food security, children's outcomes and a whole range of other social issues, so it's something quite different to what we've experienced in the past."
Melbourne-based support agency Kildonan Uniting Care told the ABC demand for financial help had increased more than 100 per cent in the last year.
There had also been a 40 per cent jump in demand for family support services.
The agency's chief executive Stella Avramopoulos said the face of economic hardship was changing, as even those with jobs struggled to make ends meet.
Mortgages, rent, transport and medical costs, rates and rising utility bills were all contributing to the crisis.
"The income that people are receiving is just not keeping up with the cost of living and the range of pressures and increases that they are faced with," Ms Avrampoulos said.
"For example, utility bills have significantly increased in the last five to 10 years."
Support agency Whittlesea Community Connections provides emergency relief to those struggling, but is turning away twice as many people as it can help.
It has seen a 40 per cent jump in demand from middle-class areas in the last six months and now makes appointments by phone only, after dozens of people began sleeping outside the premises each week to secure an appointment.
If you are experiencing financial hardship you can contact Whittlesea Community Connections' Emergency Relief, Kildonan Uniting Care's financial counselling service or call Kildonan for counselling toll free on 1800 545 366.