Local network avoiding the greasy mile
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.