Healthy food out-of-reach for many Australian families

Many families on a tight budget are struggling to fill their shopping trolleys with healthy foods, placing them at high risk of poor nutrition, including overweight and obesity, a study in Nutrition and Dietetics published by Wiley-Blackwell on behalf of the Dietitians Association of Australia has found.

The study found that the cost of a standardized healthy food basket (HFB), and therefore the cost of healthy eating, relative to income were very expensive for Adelaide families on lower incomes.

Lead author, Associate Professor John Coveney, said, “This is evidence that some Australians do not have access to affordable healthy foods. These issues need to be considered by governments when setting policy and public health programs aimed at helping Australian families make healthy food choices. We also need to monitor the price of a standard basket of food over time to keep track of food prices”.

Australia’s leading nutrition organization, the Dietitians Association of Australia (DAA), said these findings support their comprehensive obesity strategy which calls for more of a focus on helping lower income families who are most at risk of nutrition related problems have healthier eating habits.

Claire Hewat, DAA Executive Director, said, “We need to make it easier for Australian families to eat better. One part of this is better access to Accredited Practising Dietitians, who can help families make healthier food choices within their budget, through the extension of Medicare or other funded programs.”

“On a positive note, this study found that healthy foods were equally available in low and high income areas, however we know this is not the case for thousands of Australians including many living in rural and remote areas and many Indigenous communities. DAA is also calling on all governments to make nutrition a priority and commit more resources to getting all Australians eating better.”

The paper, “Adelaide Healthy Food Basket: A Survey on Food Cost, Availability and Affordability in Five Local Government Areas in Metropolitan Adelaide, South Australia”, assessed and compared the cost, availability and affordability of a standardized healthy food basket (HFB) in 5 areas of metropolitan Adelaide.

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