Objective: To assess changes in the cost and availability of a standard basket of healthy food items (the Healthy Food Access Basket [HFAB]) in Queensland.
Methods: Analysis of five cross-sectional surveys (1998, 2000, 2001, 2004 and 2006) describes changes over time. Eighty-nine stores in five remoteness categories were surveyed during May 2006. For the first time a sampling framework based on randomisation of towns throughout the state was applied and the survey was conducted by Queensland Treasury.
Results: Compared with the costs in major cities, in 2006 the mean cost of the HFAB was $107.81 (24.2%) higher in very remote stores in Queensland, but $145.57 (32.6%) higher in stores more than 2,000 kilometres from Brisbane. Over six years the cost of the HFAB has increased by around 50% ($148.87) across Queensland and, where data was available, by more than the cost of less healthy alternatives. The Consumer Price Index for food in Brisbane increased by 32.5% over the same period.
Conclusions and Implications: Australians, no matter where they live, need access to affordable, healthy food. Issues of food security in the face of rising food costs are of concern particularly in the current global economic downturn. There is an urgent need to nationally monitor, but also sustainably address the factors affecting the price of healthy foods, particularly for vulnerable groups who suffer a disproportionate burden of poor health.