Healthy diet proves costly for struggling households

A BASIC healthy diet can cost Riverina households up to a third of their family support payments, according to new Charles Sturt University (CSU) research.

HEALTHY HABITS: Mount Austin's Scott Callaghan with Jackie Priestly, who led the study into food affordability. Picture: Charles Sturt University

HEALTHY HABITS: Mount Austin's Scott Callaghan with Jackie Priestly, who led the study into food affordability. Picture: Charles Sturt University

The findings, which have highlighted the plight of food affordability stress, come after the launch of a subsidized Ashmont community supermarket earlier this week.

CSU’s School of Dentistry and Health Sciences and local health services worked closely with a number of locals to examine if they could afford enough food to meet their nutritional requirements. 

Lecturer in nutrition and dietetics Jackie Priestly said the findings revealed a shortfall in the Riverina’s food affordability. 

“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, she said.

“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.”

 “We surveyed the 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.

The lack of affordability has now been linked with the prominence of poor diet related illnesses in the region, such as diabetes and obesity. 

Project co leader Pollyemma Antees, from North West Nutrition, said the findings have shown that residents in low socioeconomic areas may be going hungry. 

“This might be one reason why low income households may suffer food insecurity, where they might run out of food and go hungry until next pay day.”

Mr Priestly said it may also point to why some low income households would opt for cheaper, less healthy food alternatives – and risk dietary illness as a result. 

“These issues need to be tackled to help reduce rates of chronic diseases like diabetes and cardiovascular disease,” said Mrs Priestly.

“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.”

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