RE-FRESH, an NHMRC Centre of Research Excellence in Food Retail Environments for Health, is the world’s first international centre for healthy food retail research and practice. A collaboration with Monash University, The Sax Institute, University of Auckland and The George Institute for Global Health, RE-FRESH aims to transform the environments in which citizens buy their food and beverages in order to improve our population’s diet and health.
With unhealthy diet representing the leading risk factor for chronic disease worldwide, and in high income countries such as Australia being a cause of many poor health outcomes, including overweight and obesity, type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, cancer, dental decay, and mental health problems, there is a global imperative to act to improve population diet.
Existing calls for change have focused largely on encouraging individuals to improve their food choices, which – while important – has proven to be an inadequate approach to improving population diets.
There is compelling evidence of the untapped potential and power of food retailers, suggesting that they represent a significant opportunity to more rapidly shift our food environments to healthier food and drink provision. With nearly all food being purchased in some type of retail setting (around two-thirds from supermarkets alone), and the retail environment having a powerful effect on purchasing decisions, it is clear that food retailers are critical gatekeepers of the environment in which we find and buy our food.
RE-FRESH will explore new solutions that are robustly positioned within the reality of our large and complex food system, so as to be feasible for retailers while also improving population diets. It will provide urgently needed research that demonstrates how healthy food retail can become the new norm for food business by promoting diets that meet national dietary guidelines and are rich in core foods like fruit and vegetables, while reducing excess purchase of discretionary food and drink.
“Through RE-FRESH, we will build the evidence, methods and tools we need to transform the environments in which people buy their food and drink and improve our population’s diet and health.”
Professor Anna Peeters