The Queensland government is launching a new program to address food insecurity in remote Indigenous communities in the Torres Strait, Cape York and Lower Gulf regions.
The Gather + Grow program will see partnerships with First Nations leaders and organisations to develop community-led strategies.
WIth virtual roundtable talks to begin on Tuesday, Lockhart River Aboriginal Shire Council Mayor Wayne Butcher said he’s excited to develop the plan.
“Improving the affordability, quality and accessibility of fresh and healthy foods will help to reduce the economic and social disadvantages faced by our communities, especially the diet-related burden of disease,” Mr Butcher said.
"Community leaders, key stakeholders, and researchers are an important part of the process of identifying the actions that need to be taken now.”
Waiben (Thursday Island) resident Debra said fresh produce is less than desirable by the time they hit the shelves at her local store.
"Sometimes when I cut the vegetables, they are rotten inside,” she said.
“Food prices are extremely high. Healthier variety of fruit and vegetables are very limited, even bananas must be eaten quickly or they will ripen too early.”
Experiences like Debra’s are a daily reality for many living in remote areas of the state.
“Nearly one-third of people living in remote areas are food insecure, compared to 4 per cent in the general Australian population," said Health and Wellbeing Queensland Chief Executive Dr Robyn Littlewood.
“Fresh food comes in on the barges one day and it’s gone the next because demand outstrips the supply.”
Dr Littlewood said limited access to traditional foods forces some communities to turn to unhealthier options high in sugar, fats and salts.
“A nutritious diet and good health are unattainable without access to healthy food and drink, so it is absolutely critical that we can address this,” she said.
“At its heart, food insecurity is a complex and dynamic issue. Freight, housing, justice, education and employment all play a big part so we need to address all of this and do it in a linked up way together.”
The moves are in response to the 2020 Parliamentary Report on Food Pricing and Food Security in Remote Indigenous Communities and its 16 recommendations.
Through the Gather + Grow program, Apunipima Cape York Health Council (ACYHC), Gidgee Healing, Mura Kosker Sorority, and remote stores group, Community Enterprise Queensland (CEQ) will be supported to address food insecurity in their regions.
“Apunipima has been advocating for improved food security and nutrition in Cape York for many years," said ACYHC Nutrition Strategy Program Advisor Clare Brown.
“Food security is about making sure children and families have enough healthy food to meet their needs each and every day for an active and healthy life.”