Food consumption in Australia has declined in all major food groups in 2022–23, with vegetables, fruit, and milk products accounting for most of the decrease.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) reported that in 2022–23, Australians purchased approximately 3.9 per cent less food than the previous year, which is 337 kJ per day or 63 grams less.

Vegetable consumption decreased the most, by 14 grams per individual per day. Subsequently, fruit and milk products experienced respective reductions of 12 grams and 11 grams.

Source: ABS

ABS health statistics spokesperson, Paul Atyeo, stated in a report that the decline in Australian food consumption was part of a longer-term trend.

“Each person had 186 grams of vegetables a day in 2022–23, down from 200 grams a day in 2021–22,” Mr Atyeo said.

“We also went from eating 150 grams of fruit to 128 grams a day during 2022–23, while milk products fell from 278 to 267 grams.

“Many of the foods that dropped during 2022–23 are part of longer-term trends.

“We’re consuming between 5 and 8 per cent less cow’s milk, bread, and fruit juice per person compared to 2018–19.”

The reason for the decline in food consumption was inflation, and the rising cost of living placed increasing pressure on household food budgets, according to researchers.

Senior Lecturer in operations and supply chain management at the University of Wollongong, Spring Zhou, discussed the reasons leading to the decrease in Australian food consumption.

“There are several factors contributing to it, Ms Zhou said.

“The rising food price is certainly a factor, and along with it is the rising cost of living.

“Prices are increasing not just for food but for other essentials as well.”

She said the reduction in disposable income was responsible for the drop in food consumption, but that the other side of the equation was supply issues.

“Australia has experienced supply disruptions in several agricultural products due to severe weather, Ms Zhou said.

“Such disruptions caused supply to dip during that period, and it is not surprising that supermarkets would increase the price for the affected products.”

Despite a decline in the consumption of certain goods during the 2022–23 period, Australians continued to consume more potato chips, chocolate, and cereals with convenience meals compared to five years ago.

Additionally, the consumption of bottled water, energy and sports drinks, and chicken dishes such as chicken nuggets increased from the previous year.

Source: ABS

The Australian Dietary Guidelines (ADG) recommend Australians “enjoy a wide variety of nutritious foods from the five groups every day.”

Professor of Community Health and Wellbeing, Lauren Ball, spoke with the ABC and advised individuals to prioritise efforts to enhance their health and wellbeing.

“Increasingly, over time, we’re seeing that health is a really true indication of overall prosperity in today’s age,” she said.

“Anything we can do to support our own health and wellbeing is becoming increasingly important, and this could be at the top of all our priorities in terms of the way that we can look after ourselves.”

Professor at the School of Medical, Indigenous, and Health Sciences at the University of Wollongong, Karen Charlton, shared how people can support their health while still saving money.

“More than 12,000 people in New South Wales have signed up for Box Divvy. This is a kind of food cooperative where neighbourhood groups, called hubs, join together to buy produce online at wholesale prices through an app,” she said. 

“These are delivered to the hub, divided up by the manager of the hub (“hubster”) each week, and customers pick up their boxes.

Fresh produce, as well as pantry items such as bread, eggs, and chilled items (dairy foods, meat, fish, and chicken), can be ordered.” 

She also offered some tips for people when shopping.