Life Skills for the Future – Healthy Food

06 Nov 2019 Life Skills for the Future – Healthy Food image

In New Zealand, we are facing a healthy food crisis – we don’t eat enough healthy food.  A Ministry of Health study of more than 11,000 people found that only 40% of us are eating enough fruit and vegetables.  The impact on our health and the cost of providing health care are extreme, particularly in terms of heart disease and obesity.  The impact of this is shown in research by KPMG that found obesity’s global economic impact is US$2 trillion or 2.8% of global Gross Domestic Product.  Paradoxically, one in five children in the world have stunted growth due to malnourishment.

In New Zealand, we have two stand-out programmes promoting healthy eating for children.  

The first picks up on being able to cook healthy meals using vegetables.  Preparing a healthy and nourishing meal is part of the New Zealand curriculum for Year 7 and 8 students at intermediate school.  A survey done by Massey University Dietetic Masters students in 2016 found that only 13% of teachers identified students as being able to plan and prepare a complete and healthy meal.  This research identified the need for teaching plans and resources to support teachers if this situation was to change. 

Vegetables.co.nz and the Heart Foundation have formed a partnership to change this.  They have prepared the resources that teachers need to incorporate into the cooking classes for preparing healthy food and vegetables.  By 2018, comprehensive resources for Year 8 were made available, and now in 2019, Year 7 resources are being developed.  For more information, go to www.vegetables.co.nz  and for resources, to www.heartfoundation.org.nz.  

Second, there is the 5+ A Day programme that provides fresh fruit and vegetables to pupils in low-decile schools.  This programme reaches 120,000 children each school day and provides 24 million servings of fresh fruit and vegetables every year.  The programme is backed up by extensive curriculum resources.  Go to www.5aday.co.nz for more information and www.5adayeducation.org.nz for resources. 

Independent research by Quigley and Watts Ltd in 2018 found that 83% of the principals surveyed said the overall health of their pupils would decline if this programme stopped.  Interestingly enough, 7 out of 10 parents said the programme encourages them to provide healthy food at home.

The impact of these two programmes as these children grow up will be profound.  Getting into the habit of healthy eating and also being taught how to prepare healthy food will progressively ripple through New Zealand and as a result, reduce what happens when we do not eat healthy food.  As KPMG reported in its 2019 Agribusiness Agenda, health is no longer the absence of disease but a focus on wellness.  Food is increasingly regarded as medicine such that the health and wellness food market has been valued by KPMG at US$769 billion and growing. 

Health has always been good business for a variety of enterprises.  Now that is expanding into a rapidly growing consumer awareness of the need to eat healthy food.  This is good business for those who grow vegetables and fruit, and even better business for our country to have a healthier population with young people who can cook and want to eat healthy food. 

The message to take home is to eat healthy food, and tell your local Member of Parliament that both these programmes need continued funding support from the Government.