Objective To develop a method to monitor trends in the cost of the Illawarra Healthy Food Basket (IHFB) and report trends from 2000 to 2003.
Design Detailed instructions for the method of pricing the IHFB were developed and tested. The price of the IHFB was collected each year in September at a major supermarket, green grocer and butcher in five Illawarra suburbs, representing a range of socio-economic locations. Data on welfare payments available to the reference family, assuming all members were unemployed, were collected from staff of Centrelink.
Main outcome measures The average weekly cost of the IHFB, the Illawarra Healthy Food Price Index (IHFPI) values in 2000, 2001 and 2003, and trends in the food basket costs compared to changes in average weekly earning and welfare benefits for the reference family.
Results The IHFPI values were 100 in 2000, 111.3 in 2001 and 112.1 in 2003.The average cost of the IHFB in 2003 was $225.86. Over the three year period average weekly earnings increased 14.5% and welfare payments for the reference family increased by 11.9%. The food component of the IHFB with the largest increase in prices was vegetables, which increased 19.8%.
Conclusion The results indicate that the affordability of healthy foods has not deteriorated over the time period 2000-2003. Fruits and vegetables and meat may be cheaper at independent grocers and butchers than in supermarkets.