Two years ago, Jackie Priestly and colleagues from Charles Sturt University’s school of Dentistry and Health Sciences mapped the availability of fresh fruits and vegetables across the Riverina compared to access to manufactured and highly processed foods.
The outcome was 10 processed food outlets to one for fresh produce.
This week, Ms Priestly and colleague Pollyemma Antees, from Moree, released their report on ascertaining the actual costs of purchasing healthy food items in the Murrumbidgee, New England, Western and far Western regions of Local Health Districts and Primary Care NSW.
A lecturer in nutrition and dietetics, Mrs Priestly, said, "we surveyed stores for the availability and cost of basic items from the Victorian Healthy Food Basket and the top 10 selling vegetable and fruit varieties in Australia”.
"The research found people could buy on average 29 different loose and bagged choices of the top 10 selling fruit varieties in Australia and 50 choices of the top 10 selling vegetable varieties in Australia”
"Grocery stores were open an average of 6.8 days per week and had on average 2.4 items missing from the 44 items in the Victorian Healthy Food Basket.
"This basket of healthy food for a family of four for two weeks cost an average of $466.79, equal to 34 per cent of Centrelink Income Support Payments for the family."
Project co-leader, Mrs Antees, from North West Nutrition, said, "this might be one reason why low income households suffer food insecurity; they might run out of food and go hungry until next pay day."
Mrs Priestly said it may also point to why some low income households might need to buy cheap foods and have less healthy diets.
"These issues need to be tackled to help reduce rates of chronic diseases like diabetes and cardiovascular disease," Mrs Priestly said.
"We hope that this research will raise awareness and encourage people to consider ways to help people in their own family and community to eat a healthy diet."
One of the outcomes of this research is the information in the ‘Getting Healthy Food on the Table’ guide providing practical ideas to take advantage of fresh and locally available fresh produce across the regions studied in this research project.