SFFA Market Basket Survey 2007

Posted on 20. Jul, 2009 by in Good News

The survey was designed to identify differences in the price, and availability of food and quality of fruit and vegetables across Sydney. Surveys were conducted in suburbs representing a range of different levels of socio-economic status. Surveys focused on 2 supermarket chains.

The survey highlighted:

  • a substantial increase in the cost of food since 2002
  • considerable variation in the price and availability of food
  • considerable variation in the quality of fruit and vegetables.

Additional research is currently being undertaken in a larger number of very low socio-economic status suburbs of Sydney.

DOWNLOAD… report (pdf 180kB)

Executive Summary

Poverty is a strong factor influencing health. Often the most disadvantaged people experience the poorest health. Those who could benefit the most from a healthy diet are increasingly unable to afford, find or use fresh healthy food.

Studies have found the cost of food in remote areas of Western Australia, Queensland, Northern Territory and South Australia to be higher than in capital cities and larger rural centers (Meedeniya, Smith & Carter, 2000). The quality of fruit and vegetables in these areas was also found to be poorer and the variety available to be more limited. A study in South Western Sydney has also previously found that supermarkets were less expensive than corner stores (Lowry, 2003).

The Market Basket Survey was designed to examine two major factors influencing food security, those being food supply and food access. The survey focused upon the price and quality of foods available in two major supermarket chains across Sydney and its surrounding suburbs.

A total of 37 supermarkets were surveyed, 19 of Chain 1 and 18 of Chain 2. The two supermarket chains were classified for analysis by suburb and level of social disadvantage.

The results of the survey indicate that the average price for the Total Food Basket has increased by $41 in the past four years. This increase was contributed to by increased petrol prices, the drought and Cyclone Larry.

The results of the survey indicate that the price for the Total Food Basket was not consistent across Sydney with up to $43 difference. The most expensive area was Sydney CBD and the least expensive was Roselands. There was little difference between mean prices for the supermarket chains.

The price also differed in areas of different socio-economic status. Stores in areas with higher socio-economic index for areas (SEIFA) and the store in the lowest SEIFA area were found to be the most expensive. Excluding the store in the area with the lowest SEIFA, a possible trend towards increasing price with increasing SEIFA was observed.

Analysis showed that a number of items were found to be unavailable in stores. The “meat & alternatives” food group was found to be the food group most likely to have items missing. This is consistent with previous studies by Meedeniya, Smith & Carter in 2000 and Lowry in 2003. Results also indicated that higher socio-economic areas had a higher percentage of overall items missing.

Overall the quality of fruit and vegetable generally rated poorly. Only 5 / 37 stores rated 80-85% for fruit and vegetables in the “all good” category. These results are poorer than those in previous studies (Meedeniya, Smith & Carter, 2000; Lowry, 2003). This finding may be due to a general decline in quality over time or be impacted by the subjectivity inherent in the tool used.

Results showed that the quality of fruit and vegetables differed in areas of different socio-economic status. The cheapest store with the lowest SEIFA rated higher in the fruit and vegetable quality than the most expensive store. However, there was a possible trend towards poorer fruit and vegetable quality with increasing disadvantage with exception to the store with the lowest SEIFA.

Survey results highlighted:

  • a substantial increase in the cost of food,
  • considerable variation in the price and availability of food
  • considerable variation in the quality of fruit and vegetables provided in supermarkets across Sydney.

This could significantly impact on the food security of some of the most disadvantaged people in Sydney. Supermarkets need to take into consideration the socio-economic status of the area when determining pricing policy and provide consistently high quality fruit and vegetables across all stores.

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