Access and affordability of nutritious food in metropolitan Melbourne

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Abstract

Aim:

The cost of food is a key determinant of food choice. Little is known about the cost of food in metropolitan areas. The present study aimed to determine access to healthy food across Melbourne, Australia.

Methods:

A random sample of 22 out of 31 local government areas was selected for inclusion in the study and one census collection district was chosen for analysis. The cost of a healthy food basket and basket of fruits and vegetables was assessed in a sample of supermarkets and green grocers. A ratio of healthy (supermarkets and grocery stores) to unhealthy (fast food and takeaway outlets) food stores was calculated.

Results:

The median cost of a healthy food basket across 68 supermarkets for a family of four was not significantly different across suburbs ($456.27, 20.07). Families in inner city use less of their income on the basket (15%) compared to middle and outer suburbs (19%, P = 0.02 and P = 0.03, respectively). The median price of a sample of fruits and vegetables across 24 green grocers was significantly cheaper than supermarkets (P = 0.01). Accessibility to healthy food decreased significantly between inner (ratio = 3.4), middle (ratio = 2.5) and outer suburbs (ratio = 0.91).

Conclusions:

Those living in outer suburbs may have poorer access to healthy food. Ensuring more affordable, accessible healthy food is available for those living in outer suburban areas may improve nutrition outcomes.

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