Journal of Immigrant and Minority Health

, Volume 14, Issue 2, pp 356–360 | Cite as

Nutritional Vulnerability Seen Within Asylum Seekers in Australia

  • Sharleen O’Reilly
  • Tess O’Shea
  • Sibusiso Bhusumane
Brief Communication


To examine the extent of nutritional vulnerability seen in a cohort of asylum seekers in Australia. Twenty-one asylum seekers (15 males, 6 females) that used a food bank were interviewed over a 6 week period at the Melbourne based Asylum Seeker Resource Centre about foods consumed in the previous 24-h and any non food bank foods obtained. A basket audit was conducted after participants accessed the food bank on the day of interview, Participants obtained significantly less than the minimum requirements for the Australian Guide to Healthy Eating in the vegetables and legumes (P < .001, 95% CI −3.5, −1.7) fruits (P < .001, 95% CI −1.7, −.1.2), dairy (P < .001, 95% CI −1.8, −1.5) and meat and meat alternatives core food groups (P = .001, 95% CI −0.8, −0.3) using foods accessed from the food bank, their primary or sole food source. A high level of nutritional vulnerability was seen in this cohort due to their inability to meet minimum nutritional requirements from their primary food access point. Health professionals working with asylum seeker populations need to be aware of this issue and the resulting potential for longer term ill health as a consequence.


Minority health Asylum seekers Healthy eating Food security 



The authors would like to acknowledge Patrick Lawrence, Johanna Burns and Carolyn Poljski at the ARSC in the facilitation of the project.


  1. 1.
    Gallegos D, Ellies P, Wright J. Still there’s no food! Food insecurity in a refugee population in Perth, Western Australia. Nutr Dietetics. 2008;65(1):78–83.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. 2.
    Kirkpatrick SI, Tarasuk V. Food insecurity is associated with nutrient inadequacies among Canadian adults and adolescents. J Nutr. 2008;138(3):604–12.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  3. 3.
    Booth S, Smith A. Food security and poverty in Australia. Nutr Dietetics. 2001;58:150–6.Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    Rush T, et al. Food Insecurity and dietary intake of immigrant food bank users. Can J Diet Practice Res. 2007;68(2):73–8.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. 5.
    Asylum Seeker Resource Centre. Food Action Network Newsletter. Asylum Seeker Resource Centre: Melbourne; 2009.Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    Irwin JD, et al. Can food banks sustain nutrient requirements? A case study in Southwestern Ontario. Can J Public Health. 2007;98(1):17–20.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  7. 7.
    Jacobs-Starkey L, Kuhnlein H. Montreal food bank users’ intakes compared with recommendations of Canada’s food guide to healthy eating. Can J Dietetic Practice Res. 2000;61(2):73–5.Google Scholar
  8. 8.
    Willows N, Au V. Nutritional quality and price of university food bank hampers. Can J Dietetic Practice Res. 2006;67(2):104–7.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. 9.
    Johnson RK. Dietary intake—how do we measure what people are really eating? Obesity. 2002;10(s11):63S–8S.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. 10.
    National Health & Medical Research Council. Dietary guidelines for Australians: a guide to healthy eating. National Health & Medical Research Council: Canberra; 2003.Google Scholar
  11. 11.
    Bell M, Wilbur L, Smith C. Nutritional status of persons using a local emergency food system program in middle America. J Am Diet Assoc. 1998;98(9):1031–3.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. 12.
    Renzaho AMN, et al. Obesity and undernutrition in sub-Saharan African immigrant and refugee children in Victoria, Australia. Asia Pacific J Clin Nutr. 2006;15(4):482–90.Google Scholar
  13. 13.
    Piwowarczyk L, Keane TM, Lincoln A. Hunger: the silent epidemic among asylum seekers and resettled refugees. Int Migr. 2008;46(1):59–77.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Sharleen O’Reilly
    • 1
  • Tess O’Shea
    • 1
  • Sibusiso Bhusumane
    • 1
  1. 1.Centre for Physical Activity and Nutrition Research, School of Exercise and Nutrition SciencesDeakin UniversityBurwood, MelbourneAustralia

Personalised recommendations