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HomeFeaturesHealthier eating patterns for all New Zealanders still a distant dream

Healthier eating patterns for all New Zealanders still a distant dream

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Moving New Zealanders to a healthier eating pattern could be a hard task if the response to a video uploaded by the Healthier Lives National Science Challenge is anything to go by. So far, after being uploaded around three months ago, it has received less than 40 views.

The response, of course, is in no way a reflection on the importance of the subject discussed. Perhaps it’s more of an indication that the masses are still wallowing in the economic doldrums. Discussing the current national diet might be of less interest to many when they’re hunting for a second job to pay the mortgage.

The video (see below) presents research on modelling policies for healthier and sustainable diets in New Zealand. It details stakeholder consultations, policy suggestions, and the impact of dietary changes on health, the environment, and costs.

The cost analysis might be of wider interest because there are some serious savings to be had here, but the benefits will still need to be better packaged if the real aim is a change in consumer habbits.

From the executive summary perspective, the key takeaways are:

–  That stakeholder consultations involved six focus groups and interviews to gather policy suggestions for sustainable diets.

–  Policies were categorised into food environments, behaviour change communication, and food systems domains. (I didn’t say it would be exciting.)

–  Implementing policies, like making healthy food policies mandatory in schools, showed significant health gains and cost savings. (Can’t see David Seymour getting very warm about that.)

–  Modelling a shift to a sustainable diet for the entire New Zealand population demonstrated substantial health improvements and cost savings. (Certainly laudable, but who’s listening?)

– Engagement with Māori stakeholders emphasised decolonizing diet practices and valuing traditional food sources. (That could be awkward.)

– Recommendations include listening to Māori voices and centring Māori views in policy design to impact communities positively. (Definitely awkward)

– The study evidences how diet changes can yield health gains and cost savings and improve health equity and environmental impact. (Wonderful, but do voters care?)

During the stakeholder consultations, several specific policy suggestions were proposed. Some that emerged were:

1. Making healthy food and drink policies mandatory in all schools.

2. Supporting marakai (Māori gardens) and Community Gardens through providing resources and staffing.

3. Scaling up and resourcing established Garden to Table programs in schools.

4. Educating the public about sustainable and healthy food through a mass media campaign.

5. Increasing incomes to enable people to choose healthy and sustainable foods.

6. Removing GST from sustainable core foods.

These policies aim to promote healthier and more sustainable eating habits in the population and have implications for health, the environment, and equity. Under the current NZ Government, however, their implementation is likely to face some high hurdles.

Peter Barclay
Peter Barclayhttp://www.wholefoodliving.life
Has a professional background in journalism, photography and design. He is a passionate Kiwi traveler and an ardent evangelist for protecting all the good things New Zealand is best known for. With his wife Catherine is also the co-owner of Wholefoodliving.

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