Child poverty worse, vulnerable face frightening choice

Years of cost-of-living pressures have led to a rise in child poverty and many vulnerable Australians are choosing between paying their landlord or paying for food, leading charities say.

One in four people have eaten expired or soiled food while about five per cent have eaten from rubbish bins, according to a survey by the Salvation Army.

Among 1500 people who approached the charity for help, 45 per cent had to choose between paying for housing or buying food, while 61 per cent struggled to pay utility bills on time, more than six times the national average, the Salvation Army said.

Major Brendan Nottle said the number of people struggling in the community and the choices they faced were frightening.

"Individuals and families shouldn't have to make these sorts of decisions, like choosing whether to eat, pay rent or send your kids to the doctor," he said.

One mother told the charity she was constantly borrowing money from friends, skipping meals so her kids could eat.

The survey highlighted the depths of Australia's current cost of living crisis, the Salvation Army said, adding its services and support are needed more than ever as it begins its 60th Red Shield Appeal with the hope of raising at least $38 million.

It comes after a Smith Family survey of 1126 respondents found most Australians believe child poverty is on the rise.

Seven in 10 people said they had seen the situation become worse over the past 12 months and 82 per cent said students in poverty were more likely to disengage in their learning.

The organisation is pushing for the federal government to implement findings from the National School Reform Agreement and for members of the public to support their Winter Appeal that aims to raise $7.2 million.