Healthy food out of reach for many

HEALTHY food is unaffordable for many Tasmanian low income families, according to preliminary research released by the University of Tasmania.

The university, as part of the Healthy Food Access Tasmania Project, conducted a price and availability survey for healthy food across the state during March and April this year.

A two-parent, two-child family on a Centrelink benefit would need to spend between 23 and 31 per cent of their income to buy healthy food at a major supermarket such as Coles or Woolworths.

Buying healthy food at a minor supermarket such as a Supa IGA could cost between 28 and 41 per cent of the family's income.

Data was collected on 44 foods from 142 of Tasmania's 353 fresh produce stores. The survey used Centrelink payments to find the income percentage spent on food for low income families.

St Vincent de Paul Northern regional manager Peter Freak said that families had been increasingly struggling with cost- of-living pressures.

"They can pay their rent but then they can't pay their power bill, or if they pay both of those they haven't got any food for the week," he said.

Mr Freak said the pressure had been impacting a vast number of families.

"These are not people who have been to us before, and that you would typically expect to see," he said.

"We're seeing new people who are just coming in, they've gotten behind in one thing or another, and they really don't have the income to be able to meet their own needs," he said.

The Heart Foundation announced that $480,000 would be offered under the Healthy Food Access Project to fund initiatives across Tasmania in communities most affected by the lack of access to healthy food. The Heart Foundation hopes the money will increase consumption of fruit and vegetables, and help fight chronic disease.

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