THE planned opening of yet another fast food restaurant and the recent closure of one of Wendouree's only fruit and vegetables outlets is a major cause for concern for a Ballarat based health expert.
Patty Smith's Handcrafted Premium Burgers, which currently has three venues in Melbourne, will soon arrive in Howitt Street, Wendouree, just metres from where Curtis Fresh Fruit and Vegetable shop has recently closed down.
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It is the latest of a seemingly endless supply of fast food chains for the strip which has recently included the opening of Carl's Junior, on top of staples such as McDonald's, KFC, Hungry Jacks.
When The Courier visited the shopping strip on Monday, it counted 20 fast food or takeaway shops between Creswick Road and Gillies Street, plus a further six petrol stations which also sold fast food.
In comparison, there is only two stores that sell fruit and vegetables, but only one dedicated fruit grocer, the other being a Woolworths supermarket.
Founder and Managing Director of Health Futures Australia Shelley Bowen said she was shocked at the proliferation of takeaway restaurants in the strip.
"I just shook my head last time I drove up Howitt Street," Dr Bowen said. "It's extraordinary what we are seeing.
"If we can just reach a point where takeaway was nutritious, wouldn't the world be a different place?"
"Takeaway joints are very strategic where they are. They are there to attract young people, families, they do the research where they will get a lot of people going through.
"In Howitt Street it's getting near impossible to find anything nutritious. You're seeing ultra-processed, high salt, high sugar, high fat, it's very much the common style of food."
It comes as the Australian Bureau of Statistics' most recent national health survey from 2017-18 showed that just over two thirds (67 per cent) of Australian adults were overweight or obese (12.5 million people), up from 63.4 per cent in 2014-15.
The National Health Survey also indicated that almost one quarter (24.9 per cent of children aged 5-17 years were overweight or obese.
The statistics which can be broken down by area also reveal that Wendouree, and Sebastopol in Ballarat have an equal overweight or obesity rate of 71.1 per cent, which translates to 7603 people.
Dr Bowen said another factor which we are only just starting to learn about is what impact the coronavirus lockdowns will have had on obesity rates as more people look to get out in the evenings, having been stuck working from home during the day.
"Many fear the upcoming data will be worse than ever, we know regional areas will have much higher rates than other areas," Dr Bowen said.
"Obesity is very complex and you should never blame individuals, a person's weight is often determined by their environment.
"We want to be resilient or strong for the future, pandemics or otherwise, we need to care for each other and everybody needs access to good produce."
"My advice is avoid sugary drinks as best we can, that adds no nutritionist in the diet," she said.
"Always look for the healthy, always look for fresh produce in supermarkets. It sounds so straight forward but it's up to the whole of society.
"The loss of farmers markets recently has been huge. There's so much vacant land around, let's look at community gardens where people can have free access to fresh food. Can we generate healthy, freshly grown food and bring that to families?"
Banning sale of sugary drinks to kids could help with obesity crisis in youth
A BALLARAT-based health professional says she would like to see sugar-based drinks banned from sale to children as a way of tackling the country's obesity crisis.
Health Futures Australia's Dr Shelley Bowen said she would support an idea for sugar based drinks, including soft drinks and energy drinks be banned for sale to children.
"I particularly am concerned at the proximity of takeaway outlets to schools," Dr Bowen said. "Wouldn't it be wonderful if we were able to have healthy options as readily avialable/"
Sugary drinks including sports and energy drinks are the largest course of added sugars in the Australian diet.
A regular 600ml bottle of soft drink contains 16 teaspoons of sugar and that figure is around 11 in a sports drink.
In December last year, sugary drinks were banned at places including the Melbourne Museum, Scienceworks and the Immigration Museum.
Under the ban, soft drinks, fruit juices and flavoured milk are not for sale cafes and eateries at all Museums Victoria venues. The City of Greater Geelong last year removed sugary drinks from all council and community-operated sport venues and facilities.
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