Cutting sugar: Striving for healthier hearts

  • Employees from the retail store in Galiwin’ku meet with ALPA and Heart Foundation staff. 

Employees from the retail store in Galiwin’ku meet with ALPA and Heart Foundation staff. 

Laura Baddeley and Nikita Muller
The Arnhem Land Progress Aboriginal Corporation (ALPA) and National Heart Foundation of Australia

The remote Northern Territory community of Ramingining is home to the Arnhem Land Progress Aboriginal Corporation (ALPA)’s first retail food store. It opened its doors in 1972 with the goal of providing a reliable source of nutritious food to the local community. Over 50 years later, ALPA now has a network of stores across the Northern Territory and far north Queensland.

ALPA is governed by an all-Aboriginal board of directors and has a strong focus on creating equal opportunities and economic independence for First Nations communities. Along with its retail stores, ALPA also has construction, furniture and accommodation enterprises.

The ALPA Board have a long-standing and strong Health and Nutrition Strategy which is implemented across the retail stores. The Strategy’s goal is to improve health by making healthy food accessible and affordable, empowering customers to make healthier selections, and raising health and nutrition awareness. The Strategy supports local initiatives and health promotion activities to foster better health outcomes.

To increase affordability, the ALPA Board have had a freight subsidy since the 1980s. In recent years this freight subsidy has expanded in the six member stores in East Arnhem Land to include: all fruit and vegetables (fresh, frozen, tinned), meat (fresh and frozen), dairy and selected infant food lines. The ALPA Board prioritise health of their customers by ensuring nutritious foods are affordable. The stores also provide employment opportunities, and profits are returned directly to each community.

In July 2023, ALPA invited the Heart Foundation to visit its retail stores in the remote communities of Ramingining and Galiwin’ku. This was an opportunity to learn about the operations of these remote grocery stores and see the ALPA Health and Nutrition Strategy in action.

A current area of focus for the ALPA Board is the high purchasing of table sugar in East Arnhem Land, which the ALPA nutrition team identified through analysis of sales data and in-store observation. It is well documented that consuming too much added sugar (sugar not naturally found in foods and drinks) can increase body weight. Increased body weight can elevate the risk of high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes, which are risk factors for heart disease. The Heart Foundation recommends people follow a heart-healthy eating pattern, which is naturally low in added sugar.

This year, the Heart Foundation and ALPA will join forces to implement a project to support Aboriginal communities in East Arnhem Land to reduce table sugar consumption. ALPA’s unique understanding of the communities it serves, combined with the Heart Foundation’s evidence-based approach to healthy eating, will aim to improve heart health outcomes for people living in the region.

To learn more about a heart-healthy eating pattern, visit the Heart Foundation website.

Visit the ALPA website to learn more about their retail stores.

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