Lo­cal net­work avoid­ing the greasy mile

South Waikato News - - Your Local News - SUP­PLIED

Toko­roa’s Ka Pai Kai food net­work has been praised for break­ing New Zealand’s grow­ing un­healthy food trend.

Dur­ing the Pub­lic Health As­so­ci­a­tion’s re­cent Christchurch conference at­ten­dees learnt about the grow­ing con­cern over ‘‘food swamps’’ in New Zealand which are ar­eas with an over-abun­dance of un­healthy but ready-to-eat foods.

The Waikato District Health Board’s Zaynel Sushil, who works in the Pop­u­la­tion Health Unit, said it was con­cern­ing be­cause re­search con­firmed de­prived ar­eas have about five times more fast food out­lets and con­ve­nience stores than gro­cery out­lets.

‘‘The food en­vi­ron­ment where we live, work, learn or play in­flu­ences our food choices. Food swamps and so­cial prob­lems like poverty all fol­low a sim­i­lar pat­tern and some sug­gest this can lead to a vi­cious cy­cle where peo­ple are less able to act in their own long-term in­ter­ests,’’ he said.

‘‘But the causes be­hind poorer ac­cess to healthy food are com­plex and can in­clude gov­ern­ment pol­icy, trade agree­ments, mar­ket ten­der­ing pro­cesses and the multi­na­tional food chains that tend to dom­i­nate more de­prived ar­eas. This can all change cul­tural ap­proach to what we eat, mov­ing us away from health­ier, lo­cally-grown food.’’

Sushil said the crit­i­cal pub­lic health ques­tion was how best to im­ple­ment change at a com­mu­nity level that sup­ports the re­duc­tion and pre­ven­tion of obe­sity. He then de­scribed the de­vel­op­ment of Toko­roa’s Ka Pai Kai.

Ka Pai Kai set up a lo­cal food net­work to help the Waikato com­mu­nity work to­gether to build a sus­tain­able lo­cal food sys­tem. The Ka Pai Kai Net­work ac­tion plan in­cluded food pro­vi­sion, at-risk youth train­ing, cafe´ food and waste pol­icy, coun­cils and indige­nous food net­works.

‘‘It be­gan with a healthy school lunch pro­gramme, trans­formed into a com­mu­nity so­cial en­ter­prise and, since its in­cep­tion in March 2015, three ko­hanga, a preschool and nine pri­mary schools have joined,’’ Sushil said.

He said what’s now be­ing pro­posed is a dy­namic com­mu­nity model for ‘how’ this can be achieved. A three-step blue­print is be­ing de­vel­oped to fa­cil­i­tate cross-set­ting work­shops to ad­dress food-re­lated is­sues.

This year the Net­work was recog­nised by the phi­lan­thropy sec­tor as a project for in­ter­gen­er­a­tional change and awarded a fund­ing boost.

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