State government reforms needed to drain “food swamps”

Led by Dr Belinda Reeve of the University of Sydney Law School, the researchers came to this conclusion after collating and evaluating 2,266 policy and strategy documents related to food systems from all local government websites. from NSW and Victoria.

Commenting on the results, Dr Reeve, an expert in health law, said: “At the end of the day, local governments are already doing a lot in this area – but there is room for a more strategic approach. “

The researchers analyzed local government policies against a new framework – encompassing the areas of health and wellness, sustainability and the environment, economic development, food waste, quality and safety. food safety, social policy and planning.

The areas of the framework addressed by the the biggest number of local authorities were:

  • provide education on / enforce food safety regulations (96.6 percent)
  • support sustainable local food production (92.3 percent)
  • reduce food loss and food waste (89.4 percent)
  • organize / support education campaigns and events on food system issues (86.5 percent)
  • support access to drinking water (86.0%)

The areas of the framework addressed by the less number of local authorities were:

  • provide dietary advice during pregnancy (1.4%)
  • using economic measures to encourage affordability / consumption of healthier foods; discourage unhealthy foods (1.4 percent)
  • restrict unhealthy food in vending machines under local government control (1.9 percent)
  • restrict advertising of unhealthy foods; increase the promotion of healthy foods (3.4 percent).

Victorian local governments were much more likely to take action on the framework’s recommendations than their New South Wales counterparts. Likewise, local governments in metropolitan areas were more proactive than those in regional and rural areas.

Emptying of “food swamps” and other corrective measures

Dr Reeve and his coauthors at the University of Wollongong and the William Angliss Institute at TAFE (Melbourne) provide recommendations for resolving the issues.

“Although our study focused on local governments, many of our recommendations are aimed at the state level,” said Dr Reeve. “This is because state governments shape the ability of local governments to effect change. “

One such initiative of state governments could be to help local governments tackle “food swamps” in their local government areas. This term describes communities, typically low-income ones, that are overwhelmed by low-quality food sources like fast food outlets and convenience stores.

“State governments could make changes by enacting legislation allowing local governments to take action against food swamps in the suburbs of growing areas,” said Dr Reeve.

Another recommendation specific to New South Wales is that the state follow the examples of Victoria, South Australia and Western Australia to establish a public health legislative framework requiring each local government to develop a health plan. public health and welfare consistent with the state level plan.

The researchers suggest that the NSW government should also legislate on climate change (as Victoria did) and, in doing so, clearly establish the link between climate change and health.

The lack of cohesion must be resolved

Finally, the researchers identified the lack of cohesion as a major problem, at all levels of government. Many local governments are already undertaking considerable work in various sectors of the food system, but few have created a common food system policy. There is also a lack of strategic and aligned action between local, state and federal governments in this area.

“There is a growing momentum at the local government level to create healthy, sustainable and equitable food systems, and some local governments like the City of Melbourne and the City of Canada Bay are providing positive examples that others can follow,” Dr Reeve said.

“They have dedicated food systems policies that address issues like sustainability and food-related health jointly.

“Their innovation is inspiring and there are opportunities for more local governments to develop similar policies that benefit their local community and our environment more broadly. “


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