A study has found Indigenous communities need access to more affordable healthy food options.
According to an editorial published in the May 18 Indigenous Health issue of the Medical Journal of Australia,
Indigenous dietary decisions, when made within the context of sustained budgetary constraints, are resulting in energy-dense, nutrient-poor diets in Indigenous communities.
Julie Brimblecombe, of the Menzies School of Health Research in Darwin, and Prof Kerin O’Dea, of the Sansom Institute of Health at the University of South Australia, collected food and non-alcoholic beverage supply data from food outlets in a remote Aboriginal community in northern Australia during a three-month period in 2005.
“Although foods such as meat, fruit and vegetables provide more nutrients per dollar spent, there is good evidence that, with sustained budgetary constraints, quality is compromised before quantity, with consumers maximising calories for dollars spent,” Dr Brimblecombe said.
“This is consistent with the ‘economics of food choice’ theory, whereby people on low incomes maximise energy availability per dollar in their food purchasing patterns.”
These patterns are reinforced by contemporary issues of limited availability of healthy food choices, high food costs and limited household-storage and food preparation capacity.
“Our study shows that low income is a powerful driver of food choice — a factor compounded in remote communities by high costs of perishable foods, such as meat, fruit and vegetables.”
In discussing some of the possible solutions to these issues, Dr Brimblecombe said that strategies need to be examined to reduce freight cost of fresh food, as well as the possibility of providing grants or subsidies to shops for improved refrigeration which would significantly reduce costs and lengthen the quality and life of the food in remote communities.
Dr Brimblecombe added, “Having access to affordable, healthy food is absolutely essential for good health as poor nutrition is one of the major determinant of preventable chronic disease.”
Source: Menzies School of Health Research