Indigenous fresh food subsidies needed, Josephite says

Junk food, which is cheaper than fruit and vegetables in many remote communities, is causing concern among Indigenous women who wants more affordable fresh food for their children, says Josephite Sr Joan Healy.

Sr Healy of the Josephite Leaders' Social Action Group made the comments following a visit to Indigenous lands in South Australia.

She said that after listening to many mothers and grandmothers, concerned about their children, she was surprised and distressed to find that the most frequently-mentioned need was affordable, nourishing food.

Sr Healy says Aboriginal women are angry about comments made last week by Health Minister Tony Abbott who said that subsidising the cost of fresh food in Indigenous communities would happen only if communities committed to changing their diet, eating less and exercising.

The women said their children need more to eat, not less. But they need the right kind of food.

"Junk food is cheaper than fresh fruit and vegies in many communities," Sr Healy said.

"Chicken and chips cost $3 a serve, but broccoli is $3 for a single floret and apples and oranges are up to $2 each. Fruit and vegetables are priced by the piece.

"Poor quality mince is $18 a kilo and stewing steak is around $25 a kilo. Baby formula is beyond the budget of most families, but breast feeding mothers need nourishing food," Sr Healy said.

"It's not a matter of not knowing the facts.

"These women know what is best for their children. They don't want to feed their children 'rubbish food'. But when their children are hungry they feed them whatever they can afford," she said.

Sr Healy said a regular supply of affordable, good quality, fresh fruit and vegetables is a much cheaper alternative to kidney dialysis and the other health complications caused by inadequate diet.

Catholic Social Services Australia (Media Release, 1/8/06)

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Sisters of St Joseph

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2 Aug 2006