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Good food’s easy on the pocket

Friday, 12th July, 2013

Far West LHD Community Dietitian, Heidi Drenkhahn, with a healthy snack. PICTURE: Gavin Schmidt Far West LHD Community Dietitian, Heidi Drenkhahn, with a healthy snack. PICTURE: Gavin Schmidt

Local research into the affordability of a healthy diet has found that it can cost less than the average person’s expenditure on food.

The Broken Hill Practical Healthy Food Basket research project was carried out by two final year dietetics students from the University of Wollongong - Hannah Davis and Megan Cameron-Lee - as part of their rural community placement, under the supervision of Far West LHD Community Dietitian, Heidi Drenkhahn.

“We believe this research to be a vital step in educating the community on how to incorporate healthy eating into their weekly routine and budgets,” Ms Drenkhahn said.

The project investigated the perception that healthy food is expensive to obtain and thus a significant barrier to achieving a nutritionally adequate diet and consequently optimal health.

“The overall aim was to develop a practical Healthy Food Basket (HFB) that could be used in practice to guide food purchasing choices and also as a tool to monitor changes in the affordability of healthy food in Broken Hill,” Ms Drenkhahn said.

Research methods included developing seven-day menus, including recipes, and HFBs for two reference families: a family of four and family of two.

The HFBs were quantitatively and qualitatively assessed for nutritional adequacy using FoodWorks and the Australian Guide to Healthy Eating and then costed at a Broken Hill supermarket.

“We found the HFBs containing 71 foods for the family of four and 67 foods for the family of two met the nutritional requirements of all family members.

“These were costed at $224.04 and $123.42 per week respectively,” said Ms Drenkhahn.

The Broken Hill Practical Healthy Food Basket included breakfast, lunch, dinner and three mid-meal snacks for all family members.

For the family of four, this resulted in a cost of only $8 per person/day for all three meals and three snacks.

“This is a significant finding in the face of popular belief that healthy eating is expensive,” she said.

“The cost of both HFBs was less than the average Australian’s current expenditure on food and therefore cannot be said to be unaffordable for the average Australian family,” Ms Drenkhahn said.

She said the weekly menus and recipes used for the Broken Hill research would now be used to create a healthy eating resource and cookbook to help local families.

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