Australia is growing in size annually, but it’s not all positive.
According to a 2015 report by the Australian Bureau of Statistics, 63.4% of Australian adults and 27.4% of children aged between five and 17 are overweight or obese.
One of the biggest contributors to this problem is a reliance on convenience and packaged foods. Healthy eating advocate and founder of No Packet November, Kate Coleman, is all too aware of this.
“Manufacturers are targeting busy parents by marketing highly processed cereal bars, fruit straps and biscuits at our impressionable young children,” Coleman says.
“The majority of packaged foods are low in nutrient value, filled with additives, and are very high in sugar or salt, but it’s confusing for families to know what’s healthy.”
It’s Coleman’s hope that No Packet November will help to educate them.
The Indigenous communities need help now more than ever, due to the abundance of processed foods in their stores...
Coleman founded No Packet November in response to the amount of packets she saw in children’s lunchboxes at schools when delivering her healthy eating seminars.
Participants who sign up to No Packet November will have access to healthier recipes, lunchbox ideas and exercise tips throughout the month.
Ideally, families and schools will then continue making healthier choices beyond November.
“A month-long campaign was a way to encourage participation in the lead up to Christmas, when packaged food consumption increases significantly,” Coleman says.
“My hope is that over November, Australians will reduce their packaged food consumption and be inspired to eat more fresh, whole foods, support local producers and learn to cook again.”
Remote Indigenous communities are feeling the benefits
But the initiative is having ripple effects throughout the country; No Packet November is also reaching remote Indigenous communities, with money raised being donated to the Mai Wiru Sugar Challenge Foundation.
The foundation was started by Damon Gameau, director of That Sugar Film, and supports people on the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara (APY) Lands - a large Aboriginal local government area located in the remote north west of South Australia - to improve their health through eating better.
Working in conjunction with the Mai Wiru Regional Stores Council Aboriginal Corporation, the foundation designs and runs community nutritional education programs. These include a nutritionist and nutrition store workers' program, a healthy living focus groups program and a healthy living cafes program.
The overall goal is to reduce sugar consumption on the APY Lands from the current 30 per cent of daily energy intake to 5 per cent.
A long road ahead
Stephan Rainow, Public /Environmental Health Officer at Nganampa Health Council Inc, says that - while there have been improvements to date - more still needs to be done.
“Our research shows that a concerted effort over three decades has delivered improvements in accessibility, availability, and affordability of healthy foods in Mai Wiru stores,” he says.
“Yet the overall effect has been a decrease in diet quality due to an increased intake of discretionary choices. This decrease in diet quality is likely a major contributor to the persistently high incidence and prevalence of diet-related chronic disease in people on the APY Lands.”
Coleman acknowledges this and says it’s one of the main reasons she’s chosen to donate monies to support the people of the APY Lands.
“The Indigenous communities need help now more than ever, due to the abundance of processed foods in their stores,” she says.
“I hope that enough people sign up so I can put some money back into the APY Lands communities to fund the community lead programs and educate the communities to make healthier choices.”
Manufacturers are targeting busy parents by marketing highly processed cereal bars, fruit straps and biscuits at our impressionable young children...
“The main aim of No Packet November is to reduce packaged food, to improve your health and the health of the environment,” she says.
“It doesn't matter if you’re vegetarian, sugar free, gluten free, vegan or paleo; we can all agree that eating too much factory-made rubbish is not beneficial to your health.”
Find out more about No Packet November here.