Sydney’s Poorest Are Being Priced Out Of The Good Life When It Comes To Shopping For Healthy Food

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Shopping for healthy food is expensive for the least well off in Western Sydney, say researchers.

The poorest families would have had to spend nearly half of their income to buy healthy, sustainable produce.

The same shopping basket represented just a tenth of the budget of more affluent neighbours.

Laurel Barosh of the Australian National University and colleagues reported their findings today in an article — The cost of a healthy and sustainable diet, who can afford it? — in the Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health.

The researchers put together two shopping baskets, one of traditional goods and the other considered to be of the healthy and sustainable type.

They then went to five suburbs, from a disadvantaged area to an advantaged area and gradients in between: Ingleburn, Old Guildford, St Clair, Toongabbie, Quakers Hill.

The chart shows that a two-adult, two-children household would need to spend more money in every neighbourhood surveyed to eat in a healthy and sustainable way.

The middle income suburb, St Clair, was paying the most in cash terms for both baskets, the standard and the healthy.

However, in terms of proportion of weekly income those in Ingleburn would have to pay the most.

They had to pay between 33% and 44% of their weekly income for a typical basket and up to 48% for healthy and sustainable food.

And when deciding what to buy, those in Ingleburn would be paying an average of 30 per cent more in cash terms for the health basket.

The researchers say:

“The difference in the costing of the two food baskets, particularly in the lowest socioeconomic neighbourhood, highlights the current inequity in food choice in greater Western Sydney and the underlying social issues of cost and affordability of healthy and sustainable foods across the social gradient.”

Those in the high income suburb shell out less of their pay: between 6% and 8% for the typical basket and 8% and 9% for the healthy basket.

The study found that supermarkets are generally cheaper than smaller grocery and convenience stores but alternative outlets are the least expensive outlets.

The cost of an apple is $3.74/kg in the supermarkets, $6.30/kg in the small grocery and convenient stores, and $3.63/kg in the alternative outlets.

A similar pattern is found with the healthy and sustainable fruit option such as oranges.

And the cost of the typical choice of meat (beef) was $12.78/kg in the supermarkets and $16.26/kg in the small grocery and convenient stores, and was least expensive in the alternative outlets ($10.99/kg).

The healthy and sustainable option (kangaroo) cost $15.26/kg in the supermarkets.

Here’s the list for both baskets. Some items weren’t available in all the stores.

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