Alice Springs Food Security Needs Assessment 2019-2020: Part One of Three

Alice Springs Food Security Needs Assessment 2019-2020: Part One of Three Report

  • Author(s): Alice Spring Food Security Reference Group,
  • Published: 2020

Abstract: “Food and nutrition security exists when all people at all times have physical, social and economic access to food, which is safe and consumed in sufficient quantity and quality to meet their dietary needs and food preferences, and is supported by an environment of adequate sanitation, health services and care, allowing for a healthy and active life.” (FAO 2012). This report was prepared by the Reference Group to collate current knowledge and perceptions surrounding food security in Alice Springs as the first step in developing a community-wide approach to addressing the issue. Its intent is to bring food security to the attention of local decision makers for discussion and consideration. It is well recognised that collective action needs to occur as a cross-sectional approach across systems including government, non-government organisations and community members to see positive change. As stated by the NRHA (2016): “Failure to address food insecurity affects a national budget from both ends. It results in increased health and welfare costs for decades to come, and also means lost taxation revenue and societal contribution from people unable to take their place in the paid workforce.” Fundamentally, food and nutrition security is influenced by the social determinants of health and the specific dimensions of availability, access, utilisation and stability over time. Influences at a local level have been interpreted at a household and community level within this report. Key Findings: Alice Springs is home to a large proportion of groups identified at high risk of facing food insecurity, inclusive of Aboriginal (17.6%) and other Culturally and Linguistically Diverse (23.4%) peoples. This highlights the importance of working in the food security space to address the unjust disadvantage faced by these populations. Alice Springs sits close to the median relative disadvantage compared to other parts of Australia (396 of 543) and the NT (13 of 18). However, we have severely disadvantaged pockets within the Alice Springs local government area. Key determinants of food insecurity are present in Alice Springs. Housing availability and affordability are a prominent issue resulting in high levels of overcrowding and other forms of homelessness, especially for at-risk groups. For Aboriginal people, transport and utility access and affordability is lower than the rest of the NT population. The NT faces greater health disparity compared to the rest of Australia in many areas including life expectancy (4.9 years lower), and greater burdens of disease (1.4x higher) particularly in kidney and urinary (4.5x higher), blood and metabolic (2.4x higher), and cardiovascular diseases (2.0x higher). Dietary risk factors contribute 7.3% to this disease burden. Some of these disease are well correlated with food insecurity, especially Type 2 diabetes and obesity. Food and Nutrition programs within Alice Springs are plethoric (113 identified) but are uncoordinated across providers and focus mainly on Emergency Food Relief and Education of individuals, with large gaps in the Access dimension and Promotion determinant. The food system within Alice Springs is not tailored towards healthy eating behaviours. Mapping reveals that there is an abundance of outlets selling majority unhealthy items that are easier to access than outlets selling majority healthy items, especially in lower socioeconomic areas; and food deserts (where no food outlets are within 500m) exist in entire suburbs, especially outside of town limits, and in extremely disadvantaged locations. Some public transport infrastructure is adequate and affordable to access, however improvements to frequency of services, communication of services, spread of bus stops in disadvantaged areas are recommended as the current system as whole may not meet the needs of the most vulnerable community members of which it aims to serve i.e. the elderly, young people or those with mobility impairments. Healthy food costs less than unhealthy/current food choices in Alice Springs and is comparable with Darwin prices. However, current data does not reflect the extra costs that may be incurred when utilising healthy food. These costs need to be investigated in greater detail to establish true affordability indices. Research has been conducted with service providers who described determinants, coping mechanisms and impacts of food security for Alice Springs community members. They also reported on current activities addressing food security and where they would like to see further action. For reasons described in this report, these have not been reported here but are considered in the recommendations and have been reported back to participants. They are planned to be published at a later date following research into community perspectives of food security in Alice Springs.

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Suggested Citation
Alice Spring Food Security Reference Group,, 2020, Alice Springs Food Security Needs Assessment 2019-2020: Part One of Three, Report, viewed 15 June 2024,

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