World Obesity Day: An Indian Plate At the Dinner Table

Kano Ravalji

The city of Melbourne has a population of over five million people. Thirty-four percent of these people were born overseas with ten percent of them being from Asia, just like me.

I live in Werribee, a growing, multicultural community in the west of Melbourne.

As a young adult, I have often reflected on growing up in Australia and growing accustomed to not seeing the healthy foods I ate at home in my local grocery store. I spent a lot of my teenage years buying the same pre-packaged meals, labelled ‘healthy’ that the supermarket encouraged us to buy – they were advertised on the television, on the billboards and in the catalogue. I would get angry at my parents for persisting to serve us Indian curries and dahls at home when they should have known, in Australia, things are done differently – or so young Kano thought.

The reason I thought this way – was because the nutrition education in schools centres a Western diet and upholds it as being the “gold standard” to health. I was told to be healthy I had to eat a salad.

It was not entirely wrong, but it made it difficult for someone of my heritage or most migrants of Asian, Pacific, or African heritage (essentially, most non-white communities) to have a seat at this table. This caused confusion for me as a younger person, and I unintentionally internalised a racist view to my own food culture.

It is much cheaper to buy a pre-packaged pizza or macaroni meal for a small family from the shops, with prices starting as low as a few dollars, than it is to buy fruit. So, naturally, families who are trying to stick to a budget will gravitate towards what is cheaper and affordable. The same mindset applies to the international food aisle in supermarkets. Yes, it is nice to see some representation where we commonly buy our food. However, these are often “whitewashed” and profit companies that are not owned by the communities where these foods originate.

Ultimately, I believe retail food environments have the responsibility to invest in community education about food to better the sector. I also think this will help industry better understand the communities they serve and localise their approach to food environments. If my education around food in school had been slightly different, I would have been prouder of my heritage growing up and been an early advocate of dahl and curry in school – therefore influencing my school mates too.

I look forward to seeing a Werribee one day where:

  1. Healthy options that reflect the cultural practices of our community.
  2. Healthy food options are convenient, affordable, and widely available
  3. Healthy food options consider not just dietary requirements like allergies, but also consider religions restrictions too – therefore considering more halal certified product in mainstream stores.
  4. Nutrition education program in our local schools that celebrate the cultural practices of students and recognise that many of the foods they eat at home are healthy.
  5. More accurate packaging on food products

Werribee already has a world class zoo! I am confident we can implement world class food practices in our community.