The Northern Territory Council of Social Service (NTCOSS) released its 24th Cost of Living Report today, shining a spotlight on soaring prices for healthy foods in remote community stores and calling on governments to take action. The NT Government’s latest Market Basket Survey shows that the average price for a basket of healthy food in 2017 in an NT remote store was $319 more than in an NT major supermarket. NTCOSS Policy Advisor Jonathon Pilbrow said, “That’s a huge gap of 60% between healthy food costs in remote stores compared to big supermarkets in the major centres. This is despite major efforts in recent years to improve access to affordable food in remote areas through licensing schemes and improved store infrastructure. Not only is the price gap big, it’s getting bigger. In 2012 the average cost of a remote store healthy food basket was 22% more than in a major supermarket. The gap was 42% in 2016 rising to 60% in 2017.” While remote areas face steep prices, other parts of the NT are doing well thanks to lower food prices and comparatively higher average incomes. Expenditure on food in the NT ($254) is the 2nd highest in the country but the weekly Territory household spend on food in 2015/16 had decreased in real terms compared with 2009/10 – making food relatively more affordable. Plus, the proportion of income spent on food (12.3%), is the lowest out of all states and territories (av. 13.9%). With the exception of takeaway food, restaurant meals and alcohol, the prices of most food groups have risen more slowly (11.5%) over the past decade than Darwin’s general inflation rate (19.6%). But the average figures hide the reality for the poorest NT households who spend more than a quarter of income on food and non-alcoholic drinks (25.4%), compared to the richest 20% of households (9.4%).