Aims: The Illawarra Healthy Food Basket was developed as one measure to monitor the affordability of healthy eating in Australia. It consists of 57 items selected to meet the nutritional requirements of a reference family of five. The basket was first costed in the Illawarra region of Australia in 2000 and again in 2001 and 2003. The present study aimed to repeat the costing of the basket in 2005 and 2007 and to assess the trends in affordability since 2000.
Methods: Costing was carried out in the same five suburbs as previous surveys, using a large supermarket, greengrocer and butcher from each. Comparison data included: welfare entitlements obtained from Centrelink, average weekly earnings and the consumer price index for food.
Main outcome measures: The average weekly cost of the Illawarra Healthy Food Basket in 2005 and 2007, and trends in the costs compared with changes in average weekly earning and welfare benefits for the reference family.
Results: The total cost of the Illawarra Healthy Food Basket in 2007 was $242.49, an increase of 20.4% since 2000, with the greatest increases in the prices of vegetables (55.7%) and fruit (46.7%). Fruits, vegetables and meat were cheaper at independent grocers and butchers than in supermarkets. The percentage of average weekly earning or welfare payments required to purchase the Illawarra Healthy Food Basket remained stable at slightly below 30%.
Conclusion: These results indicate that the affordability of healthy eating has remained relatively constant from 2000 to 2007, but the significant increases in fruit and vegetable prices might be making healthy food choices more difficult.