An election period is a time when we look to our leaders for bold, visionary action and innovative policy. A time to re-imagine our society and create new solutions to our most-pressing challenges.
A moment every three years, when we can shift the trajectory of this nation and voice our opinions. Exercise democracy, but also a time to reflect. Take stock of our national landscape and ensure that we as a nation are heading in a direction we can all be proud of.
A new promise
Now I am an academic and not a politician - and for the purposes of this article, my political bias is not totally relevant. But I want to make a call - draw a line in the sand and urge both sides of politics to consider adopting a new and bold promise for this coming election.
That by the end of the coming term, every child in our country will have equal access to affordable fresh fruits and vegetables.
That no matter where that child lives - the centre of Sydney or the red centre - fresh produce will cost the same.
And this cost will be affordable.
Fresh food is health
A recent study suggested that Indigenous children who have access to fresh fruit and vegetables, are healthier and require less antibiotic therapy than counterparts with less fresh food access. This was a small study, but it implied something we all can imagine - that children do better, and achieve greater health if they can access affordable fresh produce.
And yet, another study looking at the cost of a standard basket of supermarket goods across a spectrum of remoteness in Australia - showed a cost differential between 24% and 56%. In other words, fresh food is up to 56% more expensive in remote regions.
And this is not just an issue for Indigenous children, this is an issue for remote and rural children also, and this is an issue for urban children who live in areas void of fresh produce stores - known as food deserts.
Remote, rural and economically vulnerable families want to buy fresh foods, but increasingly simply cannot afford to.
A time for vision
All this, in the world’s 9th richest nation, by GDP per capita. A nation that was built on the back of agriculture and rural enterprise. A nation that prides itself on striving for equity and on the notion of a universal “fair go”.
Money doesn’t solve everything - but money can solve this. We can solve this and our government can solve this.
We are a wealthy nation and it is shameful that families and children could go without, or face greater economic barriers to accessing fresh foods, simply because they live further from big cities. We should not accept such disparities in the cost of food for those living in rural regions and those living in less-advantaged urban settings.
Every child should have the same opportunities for achieving health.
Every child - rural, remote, indigenous, non-indigenous or urban - should and can have access to affordable fresh produce.
If we decide to make this a priority.
Affordable fresh food for every Australian
In this election year, let’s urge our leaders to close the divide in the cost of accessing a healthy diet. Make it just as easy for all Australians and all Australian children to achieve a healthier life, regardless of their address.
It’s time to have vision, to have foresight and to make bold, meaningful and tangible changes that can benefit all. So let’s call on our politicians to make this one of their priorities. To consider a policy of affordable fresh food for every child - whatever their postcode.
This article is dedicated to the inspiring and visionary work of Prof Kerin O'Dea.