Rising food demand demands increased income for food equity – Health Coalition Aotearoa

the biggest food price increases in a decade reinforces a new report’s call for increased household incomes through government intervention to allow all families equitable access to healthy food.

the How healthy are Aotearoa New Zealand’s food environments 2018-2021 report has revealed the worrying state of New Zealand’s food environment due to the inaction of successive governments and calls for this to change.

“Of the 47 indicators that measure the implementation of healthier food policies, only one has registered an improvement over the last three years, namely the implementation of healthy school meals,” said the group’s co-chair. Health Coalition Aotearoa food expert, Dr Sally Mackay.

“Over the past nine years, most measures have not improved at all and it is worrying that every government, left or right, is doing so little on obesity and healthy eating.”

Rising food prices, as identified by Statistics New Zealand, are likely to create further food inequality.

“More than 50 countries have introduced a tax on sugary drinks, and it’s so common and backed by strong evidence, it’s hard to imagine why New Zealand wouldn’t do the same,” Mackay said.

“Additionally, we need to reduce taxation on healthy foods, such as removing the GST on fruits and vegetables like other countries have done,”

The New Zealand Health Survey also released data showing childhood obesity has risen sharply over the past year, with an increase of 3.2 percentage points from 9.5 to 12.7 % Population.

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For Maori children the rate increased by 4.5 percentage points to 17.8% and for Pacific children the rate increased from 28.8% to 35.3%.

“This steep rise in just one year is very concerning and the problem of obesity and its health effects can no longer be ignored,” Mackay said.

“We are doing so little about it and it is going to get worse. Access to healthy food does a lot to improve the physical and mental health of children”.

“Our current food system not only increases food insecurity, obesity and diabetes, it is also unfair because it creates huge health inequalities in New Zealand. Healthy food must be easily accessible to all families, not just those with higher incomes.

The report also calls for regulation to replace measures taken by industry to protect children from junk food advertising. Last week, an analysis of the University of Otago’s Kid’s Cam study revealed the extent of child marketing with 10- and 11-year-olds being exposed to one brand per minute. Many of these marks come from harmful products such as unhealthy foods, alcohol, and gambling.

Mackay says the voluntary code for advertising to children and young people has clearly proven ineffective in protecting young people from junk food advertising.

“These codes are just lip service and do little to restrict industry marketing tactics,” she said.

“For example, the code states that unhealthy food advertising is allowed on television if children make up less than 25% of the audience. However, the Nielson data used in the report shows that this 25% threshold is never exceeded, so the criterion is meaningless.

“There are many areas where the government needs to step in to ensure that healthy food is available to everyone and we would like to see at least some of these steps taken before this problem gets any worse.”

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