RISING food prices are hitting residents in the Yarra Ranges hard.
A Yarra Valley Community Health investigation has found food prices in the region have increased an average of 9.21per cent since 2008.
That means buying healthy food can take up to 44 per cent of a family's income when they are on unemployment benefits.
Health promotion officer Michelle Fleming said there were many people in the community – about 7 per cent of the population – who were having difficulty getting healthy food. She said it was particularly an issue for older people, single-parent families, people with a disability and those on low incomes.
"By not having access to healthy food, there is the potential for physical and mental health issues, including obesity and anxiety," Ms Fleming said.
"There may also be social implications, including social isolation and lack of productivity." Ms Fleming said YVCH was already taking steps to ensure the well-being of residents.
New information resources had been developed to help people gain access to healthy food and there was support through the new Healesville Community Garden, community kitchens, dietitians and increased health promotion to better inform the community.
She said Eastern Health was looking at a partnership with the Yarra Ranges and Maroondah councils and emergency food relief agencies to establish a food bank in the outer eastern suburbs.
The food bank currently used by relief centres in the region is based in Yarraville, so Ms Fleming said a more accessible one was needed. "It would be fantastic. It would save time for volunteers ... it's really exciting, actually."
Yarra Ranges councillor Samantha Dunn had not heard of the idea to establish a local food bank but said she could see the benefit.