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Original Research

Cost and affordability of healthy food in rural South Australia

Submitted: 26 September 2011
Revised: 30 November 2011
Published: 23 April 2012

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Author(s) : Ward PR, Coveney J, Verity F, Carter P, Schilling M.

Citation: Ward PR, Coveney J, Verity F, Carter P, Schilling M.  Cost and affordability of healthy food in rural South Australia. Rural and Remote Health (Internet) 2012; 12: 1938. Available: (Accessed 21 October 2017)


Introduction:  As in many other countries, Australian consumers have recently had to accommodate increases in costs of basic food, and during the financial year 2007–2008 overall food prices rose by nearly 4%. Food costs are mediating factors in food choice, especially for low-income groups, where food security is often tenuous. There are reports that rural populations may have higher levels of food insecurity, although the evidence is often contradictory.
Methods:  To assess cost and affordability of food in rural areas this study used the Healthy Food Basket (HFB) methodology, which has been applied in a number of settings. The HFBs were costed at supermarkets and stores in different locations with different degrees of rurality.
Results:  Compared with metropolitan areas, healthy food is more expensive in rural areas; costs are even higher in more remote areas. The overall affordability of HFB in rural areas was not significantly different from metro areas. The main difference concerned low socio-economic status (SES) groups, where the proportion of household income spent on the HFB was three times that of higher SES groups. 
Conclusions:  The unaffordability of healthy food, or ‘food stress’ in low SES groups is a concern, especially when this group carries the greatest burden of diet-related disease. Findings suggest that there is a need to consider both rurality and SES when developing policy responses to decrease the cost and increase the affordability of healthy foods in rural and remote areas.

Key words: food costs, food stress, healthy food basket, South Australia.

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