healthy food

Healthy Food

Planning for food recognises the importance of food and improving the availability and accessibility to healthy food through built environment characteristics. This includes considering retail types and locations, transport infrastructure to food retailers, food advertising, and potential for public open space to be used for food production and education. It also includes the provision of community amenities, such as water fountains, community gardens and breastfeeding facilities.

  1. Source: Trapp, G., Hickling, S., Christian, H., Bull, F., Timperio, A.F., Boruff, B., Shrestha, D., Giles-Corti, B., Individual, Social, and Environmental Correlates of Healthy and Unhealthy Eating. Health Education and Behaviour, 2015. 42(6): p. 759-7
  2. Source: Caraher, M., Dixon, P., Lang, T., Carr-Hill, R., Access to healthy foods: Part I. Barriers to accessing healthy foods: Differentials by gender, social class, income and mode of transport. Health Education Journal, 1998. 57(3): p. 191-201.
  3. Source: Lovell, R., Husk, K., Bethel, A., Garside, R., What are the health and well-being impacts of community gardening for adults and children: a mixed method systematic review protocol. Environmental Evidence, 2014. 3(20): p. 1-13.


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Defining ‘healthy food’ environments

The built environment can support healthy eating if healthy food (both availability and accessibility) is incorporated as part of the planning and design of a community. Food availability refers to the adequacy of the food supply within a community, such as outlet density and variety [1, 2]. Food accessibility refers to the location of food outlets (proximity) [2] and ease of getting to the food outlet [1]. 

A built environment that supports healthy eating:

  • Ensures access to a range of affordable healthy food and beverages via supermarkets/fresh produce within close proximity to residences [3, 4];
  • Creates healthy food environments around schools to encourage healthy eating behaviours;
  • Ensures healthy food is accessible through a variety of transport modes such as public, community and active transport. 
  • Makes use of existing facilities/spaces (e.g. schools) for local food production/provision of fresh produce such as through farmers’ markets.
  • Safeguarding local healthy food access and economic viability of local producers through peri-urban agriculture.

‘Healthy food’ environments and health

Availability of and accessibility to healthy food is influenced by the neighbourhoods we live in [5].  Unfortunately, in Australia, there is unequal access to affordable, good quality healthy food, with access largely influenced by socio-economic profile [6]. Governments, town planners and other built environment professionals are well placed to facilitate the creation of an environment that is supportive of good health, through increasing access to healthy food [5]. 

Poor diet and inactivity are key contributors to the prevalence of overweight and obesity in Australia. At the individual level, overweight, obesity and resultant health problems are the outcomes of over consumption of calories and a subsequent energy imbalance. The environment in which an individual lives affects energy balance by providing opportunities for energy output through physical activity, and encouraging energy input that is within the limits of dietary recommendations [7]

'Healthy Food' Glossary.


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