Healthy Food Connect - Geelong

Access to healthy food for all

REPORT – Food Access Needs Assessment 2013

Authors: Kat Cust & Ruth Cuttler, Bellarine Community Health

Key Contributor: Amanda Stirrat, City of Greater Geelong


Food security has been recognised as a national and state priority. Within the City of Greater Geelong, evidence shows not everyone has regular access to food1,2,3,4,5. Food that is safe, nutritious and culturally appropriate. In 2012, the City of Greater Geelong committed to developing a food policy. This policy offers an unprecedented opportunity to systematically embed strategies to promote current and future food security for the Geelong community.

Food choices are largely determinedby factors beyond the control of the individual. People and communities don’t have access to food for two overarching reasons. The first relates to issues of the broad food supply system (eg. Location of food outlets, availability within outlets, pricing, quality). The second relates to issues of personal access to food (eg. Income, knowledge and skills, storage facilities, mobility)6.

Climate change, housing stress and increasing petrol prices exert additional pressure on these determinants and thus peoples ability to be food secure. This pressure produces changes in primary food production, food and transport costs and urban development at the expense of food access and availability.

An environment that makes nutritious food accessible, available and affordable creates a stronger and more sustainable community. Local government can have a strong impact on food security by taking action across the Environments for Health - natural, built, economic and sociocultural. This action will secure food for the current and future population of Geelong.

Healthy Food Connect is a framework that supports local governments to work across the Environments for Health to improve food security. Healthy Food Connect outlines a process to identify and address food system issues. This process will enable Council to put the Food Policy into action.

The first step in the Healthy Food Connect process is to identify barriers and enablers of food access within the local food system. Bellarine Community Health and the City of Greater Geelong have led this process, with training and tools provided through Healthy Together Geelong. This report outlines the findings of thefood access needs assessment and makes recommendations for future action.


The first two steps of the Healthy Food Connect Framework were undertaken. These steps were to:

  • Undertake a local food access needs assessment
  • Identify and prioritise actions

Food Access Needs Assessment

An existing and recommended Municipal Food Security Scanning Tool (VLGA) was implemented. The tool scans food security across the four ‘Environments for Health’ (Natural, Socio-Economic, Built and Economic). The tool was conducted for the City of Greater Geelong as a whole and then focussed on the specific sites of Norlane/Corio, Portarlington/Indented Head/St Leonards and Highton.

Where applicable, existing food access information and community consultations were used1,2,3,4,5. Remaining data gaps were researched.

The entire tool took 10 weeks to complete.

Identify and Prioritise Actions

In a workshop led by Bellarine Community Health, the completed VLGA Scanning Tool was analysed and key action identified and prioritised. This process was guided by the Healthy Food Connect Scanning Resource Manual.


Health and Wellbeing
Dimensions – Issues / Considerations / Opportunities
Ageing population, with some communities particularly affected / Positive Ageing Strategydoes not address food security
Primary Health Care agenciesare funded to support ageing within the home and the Active Service Model / Embed consideration of access to fresh foods into the Positive Ageing Strategy
Less than half of population completing secondary education, particularly in disadvantaged suburbs / Neighbourhood houses with training qualifications across COGG
Community interest in gardening / Support existing community organisations to build knowledge and education systems, particularly relating to household food production
Corio/Norlane have high representation of all groups at-risk of food insecurity / Strong presence of emergency relief programmes and community driven initiatives to increase access to fresh food in this area / Resource an independent Emergency Food Relief Network
Relatively high, or increasing proportions of lone person and single parent households in areas of relative disadvantage / Refer BUILT and ECONOMIC Dimensions
Relatively low breastfeeding rates / Primary Health Care organisations committed to promoting breastfeeding / Explore community need for supports to increase breastfeeding


Populations at risk of food insecurity are dispersed throughout COGG. However, some suburbs and townships have higher proportions of these at risk communities.

Population level strategies, such as Council plans, will address some barriers to food security for all. Evidence demonstrates that areas with higher proportions of at risk communities should be prioritised when specific interventions are being planned to address food insecurity. Previous action to address food security in these areas has enhanced existing community capacity. Council has a role in supporting community led interventions through simplified regulatory processes.

There is the opportunity for Council to work with key internal and external partners to explore the need for support for breastfeeding in the community.

Dimensions – Issues / Considerations / Opportunities
Large arable land resource surrounding urban areas / Proportion of arable land has decreased significantly in past 20 years / Adopt Food Sensitive Planning and Urban Design (FSUD) Tool
Embed food security initiatives in the Municipal Strategic Statement
Local food production and manufacturing is a significant industry / Food production profile shifting to smaller & indoor farming
Transport routes important determinant of farm siting
Local access to produce is limited, except for niche markets
Information on local food production is limited / See ECONOMIC Environment
Explore potential of initiatives to increase local access to local food producers
Community gardens located across suburbs in COGG / Community driven initiatives
Improve social connection rather than food security outcomes / Support community led interventions through simplified regulatory processes
Programmes to support local growing exist / Community driven and often associated with community gardens or neighbourhood houses
Food waste identified as an issue by stakeholders / Some initiatives exist to rescue food waste i.e. Second Bite
No initiatives exist to address food waste from local producers despite some interest
No population level approaches to reduce food waste / Explore initiatives to increase local access to primary producersecond grade products


The COGG area has substantial access to agricultural land and a strong history of agricultural production. There is a shift in the quantity and variety of local agricultural production which will impact the region economically. Higher quality agricultural land on the Bellarine Peninsula could be threatened by future urban development. Existing agricultural, economic and food security networks present an opportunity for a co-ordinated approach to addressing fresh food production and supply within the COGG.

There are community-driven initiatives to increase local household production, such as Community Gardens, spread across the COGG. Anecdotal evidence suggests that Council processes act as a barrier to this community action. Identifying and addressing these internal barriers is an opportunity for the COGG to support these community-level initiatives.

Food waste from retail outlets and primary producers has been identified as an issue by stakeholders. There are services oriented toward food rescue and emergency food relief. Further exploration of opportunities for enabling local access to local produce usually wasted is warranted.

Dimensions – Issues / Considerations / Opportunities
COGG is a resettlement site for newly arrived refugees. People from NESB, ATSI and newly emerging cultural groups clustered mostly in two suburbs / Key agencies exist in resettlement sites of Corio/Norlane, allowing development of CALD community networks and associations but risks isolation from the broader community
Food security identified and addressed as issue by key agencies / Work with existing support organisations to increase frequency of positive cultural activities across COGG
Embed Food Security Initiatives in the COGG Diversity Plan
Culturally appropriate food for CALD communities is not readily available commercially within COGG / Supermarkets intimidating to CALD community members
Some communities more adept at applying food preparation skills to locally available foods
Living in rental accommodation is a disincentive for home food production
Many CALD community members travel to Melbourne markets to access affordable, culturally appropriate foods / Work with key agencies to explore options for increasing local access to culturally appropriate foods
Support key agencies to promote access to public transport options for people from CALD communities
Food affordability is identified as a significant issue for CALD communities / Access to employment limited by language and other barriers
Incomes low due to reliance on welfare funding / Explore opportunities for increased food production
Support existing initiatives to develop food co-operatives
Events promoting food and social connectedness are associated with local food production / High concentration of events on the Northern Bellarine Peninsula
Community-driven events / Support local communities to promote local food production
Seek opportunities to partner with key stakeholders i.e. Agricultural network and Geelong Otway Tourism


Whilst currently representing a relatively small proportion of the COGG population, communities from CALD and ATSI populations are at high risk of food insecurity and should be prioritised when planning interventions.

There are a number of key stakeholders working directly with these communities to address food security and social connectedness issues. Council could support these stakeholders through partnership to: address transport and community safety issues, explore possibilities for access to agricultural land, and support an increase in cultural events across the region. The recognition of Food Security and the promotion of a positive, inclusive food cultures in the Diversity Plan would guide this process.

Areas with closer links to agricultural production, such as the Bellarine Peninsula, have stronger social food cultures. There are opportunities across other regions of Geelong to build stronger connections to local food production through similar events. The emerging interest in local food production should be harnessed and used to promote the region and support economic viability.

Dimensions – Issues / Considerations / Opportunities
High price of healthy food basket across COGG / Some initiatives exist to address this issue / Support existing initiatives and explore new opportunities to increase local access to local affordable produce
Two fruit and vegetable wholesalers provide to retail outlets in COGG, dictating price, variety and quality available / Lack of competition at wholesaling level
Limited local access to foods produced locally / Explore strategies to increase access to locally produced foods
Support establishment of food –related social enterprises in areas of disadvantage
Develop economic strategies to support and increase local food production
Fresh food variety and quality is lower in outlets supplying low income areas / There is a relative dominance of take away outlets in low income areas vs. fresh food outlets
Communities with access only to independent grocers face higher food costs / Overlay existing GIS mapping of fresh food outlets with Public Transport Routes
Support local initiatives to establish food co-operatives and food-related social enterprise
Access to personal and public transport is a barrier, particularly in areas with no local access to fresh foods / Community transport is concentrated in the area of highest need
The Transport Connections Project improves awareness of and access to public transport across COGG
Safety concerns are a significant barrier to active transport / Ensure access to local retail outlets is considered in initiatives to improve township walkability
Address safety concerns in initiatives to improve walkability
Emergency food relief services exist and are concentrated in the CBD and Corio/Norlane / At risk communities with limited access to public transport outside these areas have limited access to emergency food relief
Existing initiatives address crisis in areas of highest need / Resource an independent Emergency Food Relief Network


The lack of competition at wholesale and retail level in COGG is a major determinant of fresh food availability, variety and quality. Strategies to increase local access to local food producers should be prioritised.

Take away, convenience and liquor outlets are concentrated in areas of relative disadvantage, where access to fresh food outlets is lower. A long-term, strategic approach that involves planning and economic strategies is required for this food supply issue to be addressed.

Food costs are an issue, particularly in areas of disadvantage. Access to local, affordable fresh food remains an issue in communities with access only to major shopping centres rather than smaller retail strips. Rising transport costs impact on food choices, reinforcing the need to work with local retailers to increase local access. Mapping existing transport routes to fresh food outlets within suburbs will inform future strategies to address transport costs and food accessibility.

There are a number of organisations working to provide emergency food relief that would benefit from support to establish a network to further co-ordinate actions. In addition, there is an ongoing need for a separate broader network that focusses on environmental and systems approaches to address food security.

Dimensions – Issues / Considerations / Opportunities
Food security not currently considered in planning documents including the Municipal Strategic Statement / Walkability strategies have been embedded in the Statement previously. / Adopt FSUD tool for future development
Apply model of embedding walkability in planning to food security
Existing strategies to increase cycling and walkability focus on recreational rather than functional activities / Lack of data on access to cycling and walking amenities
Community advocacy exists to address issues of local walkability on the Northern Bellarine Peninsula / Address information gaps
Build functional activity focus into existing strategies to address cycling and walkability
Road and general safety present barriers to accessing retail centres in some areas / Cultural discrimination is an issue for some CALD communities
Road safety fears on community walking routes have been identified as a barrier / Build on existing strategies to address community safety and walkability
Public transport links the CBD to shopping centres, but there is often limited transport within communities, particularly in areas of disadvantage / Low car ownership in areas of disadvantage
Community transport access higher on the Bellarine Peninsula / Map public transport routes to retail strips and within communities
The density of convenience, liquor and take away food outlets is higher in areas of disadvantage / Evidence suggests take away and convenience outlets frequently sited near schools
11 suburbs in COGG do not have access to a local supermarket / Investigate revitalisation of existing retail strips
Adopt FSUD and apply prospectively to urban planning
Explore options with Planners to limit the amenity, density and location of take-away and fast food outlets
New areas of housing development create walking distances of >500 metres to local food access and vehicle-based lifestyles / Development areas are on fringe of existing communities often without placement of additional retail strips
Popular urban design promotes vehicle-dependence


Food security is not currently considered in Council documents outside the Public Health and Wellbeing Plan. The commitment to developing a Food Policy requires a cross-Council approach that embeds food security issues in planning documents. The Food Sensitive Planning and Urban Design (FSUD) document is designed to enable this process. There is internal interest and external support available to Council for adopting the FSUD into current planning.

Existing strategies to improve walkability and cycling can be strengthened to create active routes to food retailers.

Planning for food secure communities can align with existing strategies to improve community safety, active transport and economic development. Embedding food security into these areas will require leadership and a co-ordinated approach within Council and with existing community partners. Support for a broad Food Security Coalition, using existing partnerships is an opportunity to inform this process.

Key Recommendations (Added July 2013)

Evidence gathered across the Environments for Health identifies a range of opportunities for action. Despite the fact that food insecurity exists, there are significant community resources tackling the issue. Therefore, recommendations have been prioritised that:

-build on existing partnerships and council capacity

-link to existing council policy

-will positively impact the greatest proportion of the population

Council has a role in supporting community stakeholders to implement interventions in at-risk communities, but will have greatest influence on population level strategies. Such an approach requires collaboration within Council. This collaboration must be coordinated, strategic and have a focus on clear outcomes.

The following recommendations suggest a range of strategies, across all of the Environments for Health, to address food security. These recommended strategies are further detailed on the following page, with suggested leads for each recommendation from within Council.

Short Term Strategies:

  1. Develop and implement a Food Policy for Geelong that addresses all facets of the food system and includes specific strategies to increase food security
  2. Establish and resource a broad-based Food Network to lead internal and external action on food security and the food system
  3. Build the capacity of the Emergency Food Relief Network to improve service coordination and increase access to nutritious foods for vulnerable groups

Medium Term Strategies: