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Dietitians call for new food plan to nourish Australians

By Karen Keast | Last Updated: 19-11-2013

Dietitians Association of Australia CEO Claire Hewat

Dietitians are calling for the health of Australians to take centre stage as the Federal Government works towards developing the nation’s first National Food Plan.

The green paper for the plan, which aims to create a sustainable, globally competitive, resilient food supply that supports access to nutritious and affordable food, was open for public consultation until the end of September.

Dietitians Association of Australia CEO Claire Hewat said the government should prioritise the nation’s health as it develops the plan, as well as considering trade and economic development.

“Health must be in the mix when discussing food policy, especially given the high

rates of diet-related chronic diseases in Australia,” she said.

“We don’t believe you can divorce food from nutrition and health.”

Ms Hewat said despite Australia producing 60 per cent more food than was needed to feed every person in the country, Australia was rife with food and nutrition problems.

“The trouble is there’s maldistribution of that and we have anywhere from three to five per cent of people, who are either individuals or families, who are not food secure.

“They do not have enough food to eat – this is in Australia today.”

Ms Hewat said some remote Aboriginal communities were on par with malnutrition rates in parts of Africa while other vulnerable groups of Australians, including low income families, people living in rural and remote areas, the elderly and people with mental illness were also “generally worse off”.

“There’s plenty of good, healthy food in Australia but a lot of people either don’t have access to it or they don’t choose to eat healthy food because they are too overwhelmed by these things that are often cheaper or less healthy for them,” she said.

“We need to improve food literacy in this country. We have an awful lot of people who don’t know how to choose nutritious food and certainly how to cook it.

“We have got more than enough food to eat – too much in fact and too much of the wrong things.

“We are not as bad as the United States but we are certainly up there in terms of diet and chronic disease.”

Ms Hewat said the National Food Plan required cooperation between agriculture and food industry sectors alongside other sectors, such as health, transport, housing, environment and education for it to be a success.

As part of its submission, the DAA has called for the plan to be integrated with the government’s proposed new National Nutrition Policy.

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