Every October, people and organisations all around the world put a spotlight on the role of food and nutrition on our health.
The One Box program exists to alleviate food stress and hunger experienced by young families across Australia. When people are unable to put enough food on the table, mainly due to a lack of financial resources to meet their basic living needs, this is where issues of nutrition and poverty collide. Sadly, food insecurity is rarely a temporary emergency. Instead, there is often a long-term and chronic need for support. Stronger social policies to help families to cope with the rising costs of living would make the biggest difference to those on the lowest incomes and ensure that everyone has access to the basics.
Meanwhile, many community organisations like The One Box are doing what they can, acting now to support the nutrition needs of families who are doing it tough. Reaching over one thousand families per week, The One Box provides each one with approximately eight kilograms of fresh, seasonal fruit and vegetables in each weekly box, as well as two litres of fresh full cream milk and a loaf of wholemeal or wholegrain bread.
Fruit and vegetables are packed with essential nutrients like vitamin C, fibre and antioxidants.  Eating plenty of fruit and vegetables improves wellbeing by supporting good heart, gut, and immune system health. A high intake can protect against chronic diseases such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease, stroke, and some cancers and for kids, eating enough fruit and vegetables helps them to grow, keep active and be at their best in the classroom.
Yet, in Australia, only one in seventeen children (6.0%) aged 2-17 years meet the national fruit and vegetable recommendations, which are specific targets recommended for optimal nutrition and good health. Even fewer adults (one in twenty, or 5.4%) typically meet these guidelines. ,
No matter how much you might value feeding your family a healthy, well-balanced and nutritious diet, when money is tight or you can’t get to the shops to buy healthy food, it can be very difficult to put enough good food on the table., Too often, we ask people to make ‘healthy choices’ without asking what choices people have.
To stretch limited dollars as far as possible and keep hunger at bay each week, families with little funds left for food may choose to get through the week by prioritising foods that will do the best job of quickly filling up plates and stomachs, first. There might be room in a tight budget for some fresh, healthy basics, but this can be of limited variety and quantity. More expensive fresh foods, which may require more time than is available, can become an occasional luxury. In fact, a survey conducted by VicHealth during the first coronavirus lockdown in Victoria (March-May) found that one in four adults (23%) reported relying on a restricted range of low-cost ‘unhealthy’ foods because of financial concerns during the lockdown. 
Every family should be able to access the basic foods they need to stay healthy, active and feel well. Many families are extremely motivated to eat well, but in tough times, people may not have the means or opportunities to always choose their health first. The One Box supports families to enjoy a wider range of fruits and vegetables than might otherwise be accessible or affordable. Over one year, each family participating in The One Box program will receive about $1000 worth of fresh food support each. Families receiving The One Box each week can more easily prepare nutritious school lunchboxes and hearty, home-cooked meals.
“The One Box Program has definitely improved the diet and nutrition of family members. Fresh food has been a much-valued addition to school lunches and after-school healthy snacks. The fresh vegetables have helped refocus the evening meals on preparation of meals at home.
When I last saw [the client who receives The One Box], she thanked me again for participation in the Program, saying, “My kids just love the boxes, we really look forward to them.””
(Staff member, regional Victorian community organisation)
No family should have to worry about running out of food for family meals, or about empty school lunch boxes. If we all work together to take poverty and food insecurity off the table, we can ensure that every parent and child has the stability and nourishment they need to build their best possible future.
 Aune D, Giovannucci E, Boffetta P, Fadnes L, Keum N, Norat T et al. Fruit and vegetable intake and the risk of cardiovascular disease, total cancer and all-cause mortality—a systematic review and dose-response meta-analysis of prospective studies. International Journal of Epidemiology. 2017;46(3):1029-1056.
 Australian Bureau of Statistics. 4364.0.55.001 – National Health Survey: First Results, 2017-18: Fruit and vegetable consumption. Canberra: Australian Bureau of Statistics; 2018.
 In Australia, the National Health and Medical Research Council publishes dietary guidelines which provide advice and recommendations on ways to eat for optimum nutrition and good health. Based on the best available evidence, the guidelines recommend that Australians eat a wide variety of nutritious foods every day. The guidelines also set specific targets on foods like fruit, vegetables, grain (cereal) foods and milk, which vary based on factors such as age, physical activity levels and sex. Source: National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC), 2013. Australian Dietary Guidelines. Canberra: National Health and Medical Research Council.
 Vandenberg M, Galvin L. Dishing up the facts: Going without healthy food in Tasmania [Internet]. Tasmania: Healthy Food Access Tasmania, Heart Foundation Australia; 2016.
 Burns C, Cook K, Mavoa H. Role of expendable income and price in food choice by low income families. Appetite. 2013;71:209-217.
 VicHealth Coronavirus Victorian Wellbeing Impact Study (2020), Victorian Health Promotion Foundation, Melbourne (https://doi.org/10.37309/2020.PO909)
 Vandenberg M, Galvin L. Dishing up the facts: Going without healthy food in Tasmania [Internet]. Tasmania: Healthy Food Access Tasmania, Heart Foundation Australia; 2016 [cited 11 July 2019]. Available from: https://www.heartfoundation.org.au/images/uploads/publications/Dishing_up_the_facts_-_going_without_healthy_food.pdf
Written by Vivien Yii, Research & Operations Coordinator at The Fruit Box Group