Charles Sturt University (CSU) research has found a basic healthy diet can cost up to around a third of some family's income support payments, shining new light on food stress in western NSW.
The research conducted through CSU's School of Dentistry and Health Sciences and local health services examined how easy it was for people to buy enough food to meet their nutritional requirements for good health.
The results are based on a 2014 survey of grocery and fresh fruit and vegetable stores across Murrumbidgee, Western NSW, Far West Local Health Districts and the New England section of the Hunter New England Local Health District.
CSU lecturer in nutrition and dietetics, Mrs Jackie Priestly, said, "We surveyed the stores for the availability and cost of basic items from the Victorian Healthy Food Basket and the top 10 selling vegetable and fruit varieties in Australia.
"The research found people could buy on average 29 different loose and bagged choices of the top 10 selling fruit varieties in Australia and 50 choices of the top 10 selling vegetable varieties in Australia.
"Grocery stores were open an average of 6.8 days per week and had on average 2.4 items missing from the 44 items in the Victorian Healthy Food Basket.
"This basket of healthy food for a family of four for two weeks cost an average of $466.79, equal to 34 per cent of Centrelink Income Support Payments for the family."
Project co leader Mrs Pollyemma Antees, from North West Nutrition, said, "This might be one reason why low income households may suffer food insecurity, where they might run out of food and go hungry until next pay day."
Mr Priestly said it may also point to why some low income households might need to buy cheap foods and may have less healthy diets.
"These issues need to be tackled to help reduce rates of chronic diseases like diabetes and cardiovascular disease," Mrs Priestly said.
"We hope that this research will raise awareness and encourage people to consider ways to help people in their own family and community to eat a healthy diet."
Results for the Murrumbidgee, Western and Far West have been released, and when available, a summary of the results for each of the districts will be made available here.