ACT News


Concern over city's 'food desert'

Households in some of Canberra's wealthiest suburbs are struggling to eat on a regular basis because of the inner south's "food desert", new research has found.

Research commissioned by Anglicare and Red Cross found that despite the prevalence of gourmet outlets, disadvantaged residents in suburbs such as Red Hill and Kingston were suffering because of a lack of affordable options and assistance programs.

Anglicare chief executive Jeremy Halcrow said the research, issued on Wednesday, indicated that people struggling financially didn't access independent grocers and found insufficient public transport options made regular shopping trips problematic.

''There are areas of disadvantage in the inner south and some of these are a long way from the major supermarkets,'' he said.

''North Canberra does have a lot of need, but also has a lot of service provision and access to supermarkets. In South Canberra, the level of need may not be as intense, but there's not the services there either.''

The research included a survey of six food relief services in Canberra, which found that a number of agencies in the relatively well-serviced inner north suburbs were fielding demand from inner south residents.


City-based Roadhouse Services reported 38 per cent of clients were from suburbs such as the inner south, while nearby St John's Care said 15 per cent of its clients were from similar suburbs.

Mr Halcrow said there was particular concern for inner south residents, because nearby emergency food outlets were accessible via

referral only or were only available for a limited number of hours a week.

''We need to look at dispersing our service provision right across the ACT,'' he said.

Researchers also identified Fyshwick and the Narrabundah Longstay Caravan Park as areas of concern, stating the park would be considered a ''food desert'' given the lack of supermarkets within walking distance and the prevalence of fast food outlets.

Demand for emergency food relief was also found to be outstripping supply in Belconnen and Weston Creek, while Mr Halcrow said new suburbs could also face problems. ''New growth areas are always at risk of becoming food desert areas, because people are living there before the shops,'' he said.

''The Molonglo area could be of concern later down the track, and the Gungahlin region.''

Surveys of emergency food relief services and their clients found that without assistance, many of the households accessing them may be at risk of food insecurity.

St Vincent de Paul chief executive Paul Trezise said the demand for food relief was consistent across the agency's 24 services in the capital.

''It's a very high proportion of the help that we give,'' he said.

''When bills are paid, what's left over for food is where people need help.''

Researchers found that single parents caring for one child in Canberra had a 58 per cent rate of experiencing food insecurity some weeks or more often, while single parent households with one or more children ran out of food almost every week in 75 per cent of cases.

Most respondents spent less than $100 a week on groceries.


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