Healthy Loddon Campaspe, a Victorian Government-funded initiative aimed at improving health outcomes for residents across the Loddon Campaspe region, has released the results of their recently commissioned research focused on the cost of purchasing locally grown fruit and vegetables.
Healthy Loddon Campaspe is developing a Regional Food System Framework to help guide the work of local government and key community organisations in creating a healthy, equitable and sustainable regional food system.
As part of this work, perspectives from community groups and stakeholders were gathered to discover some of the key issues impacting the food system in the Loddon Campaspe region.
Some of the key issues that emerged include:
- A lack of food literacy, understanding of seasonality and skills in healthy food preparation; and
- Cost of living, affordability of fresh food and the perception that locally grown food is more expensive than imported food.
To help address these concerns, Healthy Loddon Campaspe collaborated with researchers from Deakin University to investigate in each season, whether prices for fruits and vegetables differ based on whether they’re grown locally or outside the region.
Deakin University researchers compared the prices of 10 fruits and 27 vegetables that are most commonly consumed, across 60 stores. Key findings from the research for Autumn 2023 included:
- Out of a total of 1802 audited fruit and vegetable items, just over 5% were locally grown, while around 16% originated from elsewhere in Victoria, almost 74% were sourced from other parts of Australia, and approximately 3% were grown internationally.
- Locally grown produce was predominantly found at local farmers markets (35.4%), followed by greengrocers (32.3%) and small supermarkets (32.3%).
Cost and Significance
- Ten fruits and vegetables, including lettuce, cucumber, potatoes, leek, butternut pumpkin, radishes, eggplant, bok choy, sweet corn, and garlic, were found to be cheapest when locally grown.
- However, statistical analysis determined that only three of these items – lettuce, corn, and butternut pumpkin – were significantly cheaper when locally grown compared to Australian and Victorian alternatives.
- Most importantly, none of the fruits and vegetables analysed were significantly cheaper when imported from elsewhere / not grown locally, dispelling the myth that locally grown produce is less affordable.
- A significant discovery was that the majority of retailers, particularly smaller supermarkets, were unaware of the origin of the produce they sold. Many retailers sourced their produce from large warehouses without knowing the specific origin of each item.
Healthy Loddon Campaspe Coordinator, Alicia O’Brien said that the research results highlight the importance of creating a thriving local food system.
“Our research emphasises the need for increased advocacy and efforts to establish a local food supply chain, as well as to shift consumer perspectives towards understanding the health and environmental advantages of locally grown produce, without incurring additional costs,” said Ms O’Brien.
“In addition to the research findings that purchasing locally grown produce is no more expensive than food grown outside the region, there are also additional benefits associated with consuming locally grown produce, such as reduced food miles, support of local retailers and farmers, fresher produce, and the ability to eat seasonally.
“Healthy Loddon Campaspe is highlighting these benefits through our recently launched Support Our Own. Choose Locally Grown. campaign.”
As part of their ongoing work within the local food system, Healthy Loddon Campaspe will continue researching the pricing of fruits and vegetables throughout the year, covering the Winter, Spring and Summer seasons. This expanded data set will provide insights into additional produce that may be cheaper when locally grown, particularly when in season in the region.