Healthy Active by Design Case Study – Food for Thought Festival

Healthy Active by Design Case Study – Food for Thought Festival

We are excited to say that the Food for Thought Festival has been recognised as a case study for the Heart Foundations Healthy Active by Design Program! Once again the Great Southern is leading the way when it comes to designing healthy, sustainable and liveable cities. See our case study online here.

“The Heart Foundation is committed to making it easier for Australians to lead heart-healthy lives.  For more than 20 years we have worked to support the creation of healthy built environments and help planners, developers and communities work towards creating healthier streets, towns and cities. We are pleased to launch our new National website for Australians concerned with, or working in the creation of, liveable places and spaces. The website provides the best available evidence, practical advice, checklists and case studies to assist with the development of healthy neighbourhoods that promote walking, cycling and public life. We trust the Healthy Active by Design website will be a useful tool to enable urban planners to consider principles that make it easier for people to make healthier choices and encourages all Australians to eat well and be more active.


Planning for food recognises the importance of food and improving the availability and accessibility to healthy food through built environment characteristics. This includes considering retail types and locations, transport infrastructure to food retailers, food advertising, and potential for public open space to be used for food production and education. It also includes the provision of community amenities, such as water fountains, community gardens and breastfeeding facilities.

Defining ‘healthy food’ environments

The built environment can support healthy eating if healthy food (both availability and accessibility) is incorporated as part of the planning and design of a community. Food availability refers to the adequacy of the food supply within a community, such as outlet density and varieties. Food accessibility refers to the location of food outlets (proximity) and ease of getting to the food outlet.

A built environment that supports healthy eating:

  • Ensures access to a range of affordable healthy food and beverages via supermarkets/fresh produce within close proximity to residences ;
  • Creates healthy food environments around schools to encourage healthy eating behaviours;
  • Ensures healthy food is accessible through a variety of transport modes such as public, community and active transport.
  • Makes use of existing facilities/spaces (e.g. schools) for local food production/provision of fresh produce such as through farmers’ markets.
  • Safeguarding local healthy food access and economic viability of local producers through peri-urban agriculture.

‘Healthy food’ environments and health

Availability of and accessibility to healthy food is influenced by the neighbourhoods we live in.  Unfortunately, in Australia, there is unequal access to affordable, good quality healthy food, with access largely influenced by socio-economic profile. Governments, town planners and other built environment professionals are well placed to facilitate the creation of an environment that is supportive of good health, through increasing access to healthy food.

Poor diet and inactivity are key contributors to the prevalence of overweight and obesity in Australia. At the individual level, overweight, obesity and resultant health problems are the outcomes of over consumption of calories and a subsequent energy imbalance. The environment in which an individual lives affects energy balance by providing opportunities for energy output through physical activity, and encouraging energy input that is within the limits of dietary recommendations.


 Healthy Food

‘Healthy foods’ are those contained within the five food groups promoted by the Australian Dietary Guidelines. These include grain (cereal) foods; vegetables of various types and colours, as well as legumes and beans; fruit; lean meats, poultry and fish, nuts and tofu; and reduced fat dairy foods including milk, yoghurt, cheese and their alternatives. ‘Unhealthy’ foods are classified as those described by the Australian Dietary Guidelines as ‘discretionary choices’ and include sweet biscuits, pastries, processed meats and foods high in fat, salt and sugar.

Food retail outlets

Food retail outlets include supermarkets and smaller stores such as delicatessens. ‘Healthy’ retail outlets vary in their definition, however, a WA study defined healthy food outlets as “supermarkets, general stores, fruit and vegetable stores, and butchers, as these premises provide significant options for the purchase of healthy food” . Key influences of location or placement of food retail outlets include the density of the population, transportation routes and land use zoning.

Pre-prepared food outlets

Prepared food outlets include fast food outlets, convenience stores and takeaway restaurants, food service (i.e. catering) and other services such as Meals on Wheels. The Western Australian Planning and Development Regulations 2015 defined fast food outlets/lunch bars as “premises, including premises with a facility for drive-through service, used for the preparation, sale and serving of food to customers in a form ready to be eaten – (a) without further preparation; and (b) primarily off the premises” . An Australian study by Miller et al (2014) expanded on this definition, adding “all of the well-known multinational fast food chain outlets and also all takeaway establishments, which included, for example, locally owned Chinese, Indian, and Thai restaurants; fish and chip shops; burger bars; and pizzerias”.

Farmers’ markets

Farmers’ markets are regular markets that involve farmers selling fresh produce in key community locations, directly to customers. Farmers’ markets can operate in community facilities such as school grounds or public ovals.

Food hubs

Food hubs are facilities that purchase, store, distribute and market locally produced food.

Urban agriculture

Urban agriculture has been defined as “the practice of cultivating, processing, and distributing food in or around (peri-urban) a village, town, or city” .

Community gardens

Community gardens include shared development of productive gardens in reserved land.

Urban orchards

Urban orchards involve the growing and sharing of food by a local community within an urban municipality.

Verge side and residential gardens

Verge gardens include food production on nature strips and are often maintained by local residents, while residential/domestic gardens are defined as “private gardens associated with residential areas” .

Food freight

Food transport includes food distribution, with key influencers including transport systems, regulation and taxation.”