On 22 June 2018 NCOSS appeared before the Inquiry into fresh food pricing. NCOSS knows a top priority for communities right across the state is being able to provide a healthy environment for children to thrive in. But we also know that families living with disadvantage are more than twice as likely to experience food insecurity, which impacts their health and wellbeing outcomes. Here's what NCOSS had to say at the inquiry:
Opening statement: Melanie Fernandez, NCOSS Deputy CEO
Thank you for the opportunity to address the Committee today as part of this inquiry.
As you would be aware, the NSW Council of Social Services works with and for people experiencing poverty and disadvantage, with a focus on seeing positive change in our communities.
As the peak body for health and community services in NSW, we also support the sector to deliver innovative services that grow and develop as needs and circumstances evolve.
We operate under the principle that when rates of poverty and inequality are low, everyone in NSW benefits.
In this context, we approach key issues such as fresh food pricing with an equity lens, to shine a light on the unique and significant impact these issues have on vulnerable people and families.
This is why our focus for this inquiry has been on the Terms of Reference concerning food insecurity and food deserts.
Over the past few years, we have travelled across NSW to speak to communities about their challenges and aspirations. We consistently hear that a top priority right across the state is being able to provide a healthy environment for children to thrive in.
But we also hear about the barriers families encounter in trying to provide this, particularly around the high cost of living as well as limited availability and accessibility in regional and remote areas.
We know that families living with disadvantage are more than twice as likely to experience food insecurity, which impacts their health and wellbeing outcomes.
NCOSS is currently developing our 2018 Cost of Living report on food insecurity, which we will be happy to provide to the Committee for this inquiry when it is finalised next month.
With more than one in 5 children in NSW overweight or obese, and children from low socioeconomic backgrounds at greater risk of overweight and obesity, we need to be looking closely at the link with food insecurity to move the needle on childhood obesity prevention for vulnerable families.
Children’s exposure to unhealthy marketing should be limited by the NSW Government where possible
- This is in line with one of the Cancer Council’s recommendations.
- Research shows there is a high proportion of advertising in high exposure areas near schools that feature unhealthy foods.
- The NSW Government should eliminate unhealthy marketing in spaces it owns or leases, including outdoor billboards, public transport and public transport stops.
- NSW Government should also take action to remove unhealthy food marketing, promotion and sponsorship of all children’s sport. For example, the Office of Sport could develop healthy sponsorship criteria for children’s sports clubs and assist clubs to find alternative sponsors.
Health and wellbeing should be embedded in environmental planning
- Health and wellbeing should be a key driver of planning decisions and processes, particularly when it comes to public and community spaces.
- For example, we continue to stress that health and wellbeing should be an objective in the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act (1979). We were disappointed to see that this was not included in the objectives when the Act was amended last year.
- Both Queensland and Tasmania include health-related objectives in their planning laws.
Whole of community approach, that addresses multiple risk factors simultaneously with an equity lens, is needed to tackle childhood obesity
- Our 2016 report on childhood obesity in vulnerable communities and 2018/19 Pre-Budget Submission advocated for a whole of community approach.
- There is strong evidence that whole of community approaches are most effective at reducing obesity for people from lower socioeconomic backgrounds.
- Similar approaches have been effective internationally and locally, including in rural communities through Healthy Together Victoria.
- There is translational research being undertaken in Campbelltown through the South Western Sydney Local Health District to apply a similar approach.
- We know that communities need to be resourced and supported to implement place-based solutions that leverage cross-sector collaboration within their own community.