The cost of a healthy and sustainable diet – who can afford it?

Authors

  • Laurel Barosh,

    Corresponding author
    1. National Centre for Epidemiology and Population Health, Australian National University, Australian Capital Territory
    • Correspondence to: Ms Laurel Barosh, National Centre for Epidemiology and Population Health, Australian National University, Mills Road, Canberra, ACT 0200; e-mail: laurelbarosh@gmail.com

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  • Sharon Friel,

    1. National Centre for Epidemiology and Population Health, Australian National University, Australian Capital Territory
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  • Katrin Engelhardt,

    1. National Centre for Epidemiology and Population Health, Australian National University, Australian Capital Territory
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  • Lilian Chan

    1. Australian Division of World Action on Salt and Health, The George Institute for Global Health, New South Wales
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  • The authors have stated they have no conflict of interest.

Abstract

Objective: Climate change is affecting the ability of food systems to provide sufficient nutritious and affordable foods at all times. Healthy and sustainable (H&S) food choices are important contributions to health and climate change policy efforts. This paper presents empirical data on the affordability of a food basket that incorporates principles of health and sustainability across different food sub-systems, socioeconomic neighbourhoods and household income levels in Greater Western Sydney, Australia.

Methods: A basket survey was used to investigate the cost of both a typical basket of food and a hypothetical H&S basket. The price of foods in the two baskets was recorded in five neighbourhoods, and the affordability of the baskets was determined across household income quintiles.

Results: The cost of the H&S basket was more than the typical basket in all five socioeconomic neighbourhoods, with most disadvantaged neighbourhood spending proportionately more (30%) to buy the H&S basket. Within household income levels, the greatest inequity was found in the middle income neighbourhood, showing that households in the lowest income quintile would have to spend up to 48% of their weekly income to buy the H&S basket, while households in the highest income quintile would have to spend significantly less of their weekly income (9%).

Conclusion: The most disadvantaged groups in the region, both at the neighbourhood and household level, experience the greatest inequality in affordability of the H&S diet.

Implications: The results highlight the current inequity in food choice in the region and the underlying social issues of cost and affordability of H&S foods.

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