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Health & Nutrition

Remote communities work with Outback Stores to ensure a nutritious, affordable, and quality food supply. Our goal is to improve the health of Indigenous people living in remote communities by improving access to a nutritious and affordable food supply.

We aim to make healthy food and drink choices easier, while still maintaining choice. Our way of measuring success is reducing sugary drink sales and increasing the sales of fruit and vegetables.

Reducing sugary drinks

Community-led sugar reduction strategies with instore initiatives have produced successful results in reducing the sales of sugary drinks. Each community has the opportunity with our support to create unique strategies in their store to make non-sugary drink options the easier choice.

The 2020 financial year saw a 4.15% drop in the proportion of sugary drinks sold (54.59%) in comparable Outback Stores on the previous year (58.74%). The proportion of water sold increased 1.32% and sugar free drinks increased 2.82%.

The result of this is 20,518 litres less sugary drinks or approximately 2 tonnes less sugar from sugary drinks sold in the remote communities where we work. This continues an ongoing trend that has seen the proportion of full sugar drinks fall over 20% from 76.5% in 2012. Stores with competitors and those close to regional centres find it more challenging to implement sugar reduction strategies. For the stores that have implemented specific strategies, it has resulted in dramatic reductions in sugar consumption from sugary drinks.

One of the major successes of the Outback Stores program of reducing sugary drinks has been the engagement with the communities in which we operate. Outback Stores nutrition and operations teams work closely with communities, including store owners and directors, to identify strategies specific to their store that can continue to reduce the volume of sugary drinks sold in stores.

In 2020 the Yalata community store directors made the decision to not sell sugary drinks larger than 600ml. This is a small but significant step in a community store to move community members away from purchasing full sugar drinks that is complemented with reduced pricing on sugar-free options. This step encourages choosing sugar-free and water over full sugar and led the Yalata community store to achieve a 14.94% reduction in the share of full sugar soft drink for FY2020.

Fruit and Vegetables

Fresh fruit and vegetable sales growth is a key component of the Outback Stores nutrition strategy. In the 2020 financial year we saw a massive full store volume growth of 14.78% resulting in 527 tonnes of fresh fruit and vegetables actually purchased by our customers. Outback Stores’ comparable sales growth was 13.94% at 453 tonnes.

In partnership with the communities where we operate, Outback Stores continued to implement modern and efficient display gondolas and refrigerated display cases in stores to support the sale of fresh fruit and vegetables. The Barlmarrk Supermarket invested in both modern new display gondolas and efficient new refrigerated display cases during the year and achieved a massive sales increase of 58.80% in fresh fruit and vegetables.

Tobacco

Tobacco reduction continues to be a focus for Outback Stores and the communities where we work. In the 2019/20 financial year, we saw a drop of 4.39% in the volume of tobacco sold in comparable Outback Stores managed stores and a combined comparative reduction of 17.60% over the past three years.

Outback Stores maintains a consistent approach in relation to reducing tobacco consumption. Tobacco consumption data and results are presented at store directors meetings to engage and inform the store owners. Our nutrition team continues to engage with communities in relation to tobacco reduction and all of the Quit campaign tobacco reduction strategies and state-based legislation are fully implemented in all stores.

Further to this we actively collaborate with health services to support tackling smoking in the communities where we work. This includes working with the Katherine West Health Board Indigenous Smoking Program Coordinator to start discussions about implementation of a no smoking policy around the exterior perimeter of stores.

Affordability

Outback Stores, in partnership with the stores we work with, remains focussed on improving affordability on healthy and nutritious foods along with everyday needed products. Further to this we continue to seek opportunities to provide promotional pricing on a broad range
of products including food and general merchandise lines. During the recent COVID-19 community lockdowns we expanded our promotional program to include more than sixty additional lines to support community members.

Fresh fruit and vegetable pricing is maintained at levels as close as possible to major metropolitan retailers with special buy pricing on volume and in season lines consistently implemented at or below major retailers pricing across the year. Outback Stores managed stores continue to subsidise the freight costs on fresh fruit and vegetables to keep these prices as low as possible at all times.

In 2018 Outback Stores launched our Staple lines program, working with stores and suppliers to implement reduced pricing on everyday needed lines including flour, rice, milk, eggs, water and oats. Over the past year we have continued to add lines to this list including Weetbix, baby formula and nappies, with plans to continue to further expand this program in the coming year.

School Nutrition Programme

Outback Stores supports the Australian Government’s commitment to providing meals to school children in the Northern Territory through the School Nutrition Programme (SNP). The SNP provides the opportunity to improve attendance and engagement with learning by providing healthy and nutritious meals for children whilst at school.

Over the past year Outback Stores commenced providing meals as part of the SNP to a further four remote community schools in Willowra, Engawala, Nyirripi and Yuelamu. These communities join Ali Curung, Epenarra, Pigeon Hole and Papunya who have been providing SNP meals over previous years.

The stores’ involvement in the SNP includes working with the schools to ensure a sufficient number of meals are prepared and delivered daily throughout the school terms.

SNP provides healthy and nutritious meals for school children, additional employment, and education for local community members on the importance of healthy nutritious and meals being readily available.

Students

Outback Stores partnered with Monash University to host two Masters in Nutrition and Dietetics students completing their final year, for a 7-week placement with the Outback Stores Health and Nutrition Manager. The students focused on a project testing new in store nutrition education material with remote community members and store staff. The nutrition education material is an exciting collaborative project between Uncle Jimmy Thumbs Up! and Arnhem Land Progress Aboriginal Corporation (ALPA) to reduce sugar consumption and increase fruit and vegetable sales. We look forward to seeing this material in remote community stores in 2021.

The ongoing partnership between Outback Stores and Monash University to place students working with remote community store organisations brings benefits in a greater understanding and focus on the nutrition challenges that face remote Indigenous communities. This ongoing collaboration provides early exposure for future leaders in the nutrition field to these unique challenges and inspires these leaders to work in and focus on this area in the future.