Access to fresh food provides residents with the opportunity to purchase nutritional foods which support healthy eating behaviours and lifestyles. Supermarkets are a common source of fresh healthy foods, but additionally, local retail outlets such as fruit and vegetable retailers (greengrocers) also provide important opportunities to purchase these types of foods. Additionally, living within easy walking distance of fresh food stores encourages and enables people to walk or cycle instead of driving and hence, reduces their risk of chronic disease. Most people will not regularly walk distances greater than 800m – 1km to destinations such as shops and services (Gunn, King, et al., 2017; Gunn, Mavoa, et al., 2017) especially if bulky purchases need to be carried.
Access to food is not always equitable throughout communities and some areas, known as ‘food deserts’, have limited or no access to foods. Food deserts force residents to be reliant on motorised transport and are of particular concern to those with limited mobility or in low socio-economic status areas where people may not be able to afford a private car.
Eating fast food on a regular basis may contribute to individuals becoming overweight or obese, both of which are linked to an increased risk of developing chronic diseases such as type 2 diabetes, coronary heart disease and some cancers. Close proximity to fast food retailers, including those trading from food courts, may influence an individual’s diet, especially among those with walkable access.
Relevant Sustainable Development Goals
Percentage of dwellings without any food outlet within 3.2km
Percentage of dwellings within 1km of a supermarket
Average distance to closest healthy food outlet (supermarket or greengrocer)
Average distance to closest fast food outlet
The location of supermarkets and greengrocers was derived from OpenStreetMap and from five major supermarket chain websites, Aldi, Coles, Foodworks, IGA and Woolworths.
Pedestrian road network distances were calculated from each sample point to the closest type of food.
Astell-Burt T, Feng X, Mavoa S, Badland H, Giles-Corti B. (2017). Modest ratios of fast food outlets to supermarkets and green grocers are associated with higher body mass index: Longitudinal analysis of a sample of 15,229 Australians aged 45 years and older in the Australian National Liveability Study
Feng X, Astell-Burt T, Badland H, Mavoa S, Giles-Corti B. Association between body mass index and local food environment in a sample of 15,229 Australians aged 45 years and older: Findings from the National Liveability Study. Health Place. Under review
Gunn L, Mavoa S, Boulangé C, Hooper P, Kavanagh A, Giles-Corti B. (2017). Designing healthy communities: creating evidence on metrics for built environment features associated with walkable neighbourhood activity centres. International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity. 14(1):164
Murphy M, Badland H, Koohsari MJ, Astell-Burt T, Trapp G, Villanueva K, Mavoa S, Davern M, Giles-Corti B. (2017). Indicators of a health-promoting local food environment: a conceptual framework to inform urban planning policy and practice. Health Promot J Aust. 28(1):82–84
Murphy M, Badland H, Koohsari MJ, Giles-Corti B. (2017). Supermarket access, transport mode and BMI: the potential for urban design and planning policy across socioeconomic areas. Public Health Nutrition, 20:3304-3315
Murphy M, Jordan H, Badland H, Giles-Corti B. (2018). Local food environments: A qualitative study into Australian stakeholder perspectives on urban planning and governance to advance health and equity within cities. Cities & Health, 15:10.1080/23748834.2018.1514802