Foodservice usually refers to any meal and beverage preparation outside the home.  It incorporates businesses, and industries that support those businesses, which provide ingredients or whole meals in a variety of contexts including schools, hospitals, cafes restaurants, cafeterias and aged care settings, but does not usually include supermarkets.  Foodservice is a key component of the Australian economy, employing more than 2 million people prior to the pandemic. Despite the global pandemic, these projections are probably still valid as the sector will continue to grow once the economy recovers.

Australians have demonstrated an increase in eating away from home, and for purchasing and using “convenience” food of all varieties.  As far back as 1992, the Commonwealth government published its first Food and Nutrition Policy,  which included the following summary “effective food and nutrition policy requires food producers to increase their skills related to knowledge of dietary issues and apply these to product development; food marketers to understand nutrition issues and consumer perceptions.”  One of the strategies identified to meet objectives was “public and private food services (including school canteens), food manufacturing companies and all levels of government will be encouraged to adopt nutrition policies; health services and the food industry should lead by example”. This policy has not been updated or changed since its publication and is as salient today as then.  But this is not to deny the substantial leaps that the food industry and the food service industry has made since then, with improvements in nutrient profiles and reformulation of foods to reduce sodium, free sugars and saturated fats.

Despite these gains, we have seen only some gains in overall health.  Chronic disease continues to increase and be an issue, even though the age profile of some of these diseases has changed. Obesity is on the rise, and with it, its outcome of diabetes in a proportion of the obese. So the role of the foodservices sector has, if anything, become more important than ever.

To read more from this article visit the NACi Library

Sandra Capra AM, PhD Emeritus Professor of Nutrition, The University of Queensland
March 2020

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