Some focus in the SMH today on the high cost of fresh food in remote communities, where in at least one community in WA, Mulan,
so high are the basic living costs that many simply go hungry for a couple of days each week
and this is in a town with a store managed on behalf of the community as a non-profit operation. Freight costs are said to be around triple the stock costs for the store (a problem striking most remote communities, not just indigenous communities). As most people in the community do not have refrigerators, they cannot buy specials in bulk, and so concentrate on cheap foods that will store without refrigeration – sugar, flour, milk powder and bread (high in salt, carbohydrates and empty calories).
Another SMH article from their Medical editor (emphasis added):
It is the first study to investigate the link between poverty and inadequate nutrition among Aborigines in the Northern Territory. While it focused on the one unnamed community of 2000 people, it offers a damning insight into a broader crisis in the nutrition of indigenous Australians.
It found that fruit and vegetable consumption was a third that of the wider Australian community. Cheap but poor-quality food heavy in carbohydrates made up two-thirds of the diet. This put adults at risk of obesity-linked diseases such as cancer, diabetes and heart attack and compromised children’s development, said the study leader, Julie Brimblecombe.
preliminary analysis indicated that a diet that met government nutrition recommendations was not affordable on the budget available, Dr Brimblecombe said.
People are buying cheap calories so that there is food on the table every day. If they bought more expensive calories they would spend several days of every week hungry. Older people are already in the habit of taking less than their share so that the children will be fed.
Even in Mulan, an architect from Victoria who spends three months a year there, who sounds as if he almost gets it, fails to fully understand:
“I don’t know how people live,” said Peter Lockyer, a builder-architect from Victoria who spends three months a year working on building projects in Mulan. “I’ve got the resources to get in my ute and go to Halls Creek to stock up.”
Mr Lockyer also saves money because he has a small vegetable garden. “Mulan could grow its own food but it would require a quantum leap in desire to do it”.
Just desire should be enough, he thinks? What about the set-up cost of the seeds and fertiliser and garden tools? They already spend all their money on food and still go hungry, that’s why they are malnourished. Where is the money to set up a vegetable garden going to come from?
That could be another useful aid project perhaps: consulting with the community about setting up a community garden project where they could grow some vegetables.