More than 1 million people cannot afford to eat a healthy diet either occasionally, or regularly in Australia today. Not having consistent, reliable access to healthy, affordable food is called food insecurity and it can have a significant impact on your health and wellbeing.
The report Food Security and Health in Rural and Remote Australia, prepared by the National Rural Health Alliance for the Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation, sets out the health impacts associated with lack of access to a healthy diet. The report goes on to provide options on how to address these challenges.
Food insecurity is associated with poverty. As ACOSS announced on Sunday, poverty in 2014 affected 13% of the national population. And it was worse in rural and remote Australia, where 14% of the population was living in poverty – that is almost one person in seven.
Low income households, single-parent households and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders are those most at risk from food insecurity, with up to 30% of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander households in remote Australia being food insecure.
Paying up to two thirds more for food in remote community stores, compared to those in Darwin or Adelaide, is just one challenge to be overcome in some remote communities.
Food insecurity is associated with being overweight and obesity. Not being able to afford a healthy diet, can lead to eating what is relatively affordable which is often calorie rich, nutrition poor food. It has been well established that rapidly increasing levels of obesity in Australia are driving growth in chronic diseases like diabetes and heart disease.
The good news is that investing in food insecure mothers and infants through providing access to a better diet can benefit children’s academic ability and health across their lifespan.
Addressing food insecurity has the potential to deliver significant benefits – not only for those directly affected because they don’t have access to a healthy diet, but also to communities and the national economy.