‘State govts can help LGs drain Australia’s food swamps’

State governments should get behind local government efforts to create a healthy and sustainable food system in Australia, a new report says.

Councils are already involved in food safety regulations as well as supporting sustainable local food production and reducing food waste, but could potentially do more to encourage the consumption of healthier foods as well as limit or discourage the advertising or sale of processed food high in salt and fat.

However, the report says this would require legislative change by state governments, combined with substantial financial resourcing for councils and local communities.

Many LGs have procurement policies for the purchasing and provision of healthy and sustainable food and beverages at services and events they manage or host, but the report notes they lack powers with regards to the approval or refusal of food outlet types.

“Both NSW and Victoria need to urgently amend respective planning frameworks to address this … and stem the phenomenon of ‘food swamp’,” the report says.

[Food swamps are urban environments where most of the food sold is unnourishing or undermines public health goals.]

The study, which mapped local government actions in NSW and Victoria, identifies opportunities for action at all levels of government to support councils in creating a healthy, sustainable, and equitable food system.

“Developing such policies also presents an opportunity for community and/or civil society participation in food system governance at the local level, either through processes of consultation or through a formal structure such as a food policy council,” the report says.

Click here to read or download The Role of Australian local governments in creating a healthy, sustainable, and equitable food system.

The study was undertaken by researchers from the University of Sydney, the University of Wollongong, and the William Angliss Institute of TAFE Victoria, and funded by the Australian Research Council.