Improving access to healthy food in Tasmanian communities

A guide for local government and social entrepreneurs

Tasmanians need better access to healthy food

Tasmania has the highest rate of obesity in the country.[1] A major contributing factor is the kind of food we eat; low fruit and vegetable intake is a big part of the problem.

Furthermore, people from low socioeconomic areas tend to fare poorly in comparison to their wealthier neighbours when it comes to diet and health. One of the reasons is that they don’t have sufficient access to healthy food. They can’t easily get to a supermarket, either because of poor transport options or because there simply isn’t a big store anywhere nearby.

In those regional areas where healthy food is available it is usually more expensive. This has led to some Tasmanian households going without food in order to meet electricity, rent and medication costs.[2]

Of course, there are other reasons why someone might not eat well: not knowing how to cook a healthy meal (or having no kitchen), temptation by fast- or prepared-food alternatives, lack of time, even lack of desire to switch to a healthy diet. These are complex social issues that must be addressed as part of a holistic healthy-eating campaign. But first things first: access to healthy food, and its affordability, are core factors.

A few observations about the complex issue of food access:

For many, shopping is a social activity. While it might be possible to shop for groceries online (and therefore the issue of access might appear redundant), many people simply do not engage with online shopping. If you can easily get to a bricks-and-mortar supermarket you are more likely to shop there.

People in middle- and higher-socioeconomic situations tend to travel outside of their neighbourhood regularly, and food shopping is integrated into their weekly routine. If you do not travel regularly, healthy food shopping opportunities are irregular at best.

It’s important that people live and work in an environment that regards healthy eating as normal.

We need effective food access coalitions

Healthy Food Access Tasmania’s aim is to build networks of regional stakeholders who can work together to increase food security in their region, and in doing so develop a broader Tasmanian coalition.

Food policy coalitions have demonstrated success internationally in improving food insecurity. They provide an effective means to aggregate effort through cooperation between people from government, research institutions, producers, distributors, markets, industry bodies and social organisations. Furthermore, coalitions with a local focus tend to be more effective than statewide programs. That is likely the case in Tasmania because the responsibility for food security in the state rests with numerous portfolios across all three levels of government. Coordination is difficult unless local residents and stakeholders are engaged.

Each region – indeed each neighbourhood across Tasmania – is different, which is another reason these coalitions need to be assembled with a local flavour. But the research, planning and networking processes will be much the same, wherever you live, which means constructing a coalition probably need not begin from scratch.

More coming soon …

Please help us keep up to date by telling us of your progress, success stories, and the problems you face in your area.

[1] Heart Maps data 2017
[2] Food for all Tasmanians