The literature on food access Indicates that people from low income backgrounds experience higher rates of food insecurity and obesity, and studies have found that affordability is a primary reason given for not choosing healthy foods (Bannered 2007; Nines-Hughes et al 2011, p. 21 5 Thus, the assessment of food cost and affordability are essential steps in better understanding individual and community food choices. Food costs entered the political limelight prior to the Australian 2007 federal election, with voters demanding government action to reduce prices.
To honor pre-election promises, the newly elected Labor government initiated a national inquiry into grocery pricing soon after taking office. However, following the release of the grocery pricing Inquiry report (Australian Competition and Consumer Commission 2008) and the consequent launch of the government website to monitor prices 5, critics considered there would be minimal if any impact on prices (Sydney Morning Herald 2008).
This Is partly because of International trends, with Australia not immune to global factors attributed to raising the costs of basic foods (Queensland Health 2001), and partly because the inquiry outcomes did nothing to address food costs. To be food secure means to have regular access to safe, nutritionally adequate, culturally acceptable food from emergency sources (Kirk 2002). Food insecurity, then, describes a limited or uncertain ability to acquire appropriate foods In socially acceptable ways (Bowdon 2006).
This is not merely a lack of food, but occurs when people fear running out of food, or are forced to make significant changes to their usual eating patterns due to economic constraints. The diets of those who are food Insecure are likely to lack variety and be of poor quality with lower levels of microinstructions. The cartoon by Firth (1998) describes the Labor Governments initiative to standardize grocery pricing across Australia. The diagram at the bottom of the page shows the range of food groups recommended for a healthy adult (Lined 2008).
There is some evidence to demonstrate that populations living in rural areas of Australia have to pay more for healthy food than their metropolitan (metro’) counterparts. The Healthy Food Basket (HUB) survey conducted in Queensland demonstrated higher food costs in rural and remote parts of the state. In South Australia (AS) a study conducted by Douglas (2006, p. 16) demonstrated that “food costs were higher In remote areas of that state”.