Healthy food on DCC agenda

Healthier foods could soon be appearing next to the soft drink and chocolate bars at Dunedin City Council facilities, with the council looking at running a trial on the issue. Photo by Tim Miller
Healthier foods could soon be appearing next to the soft drink and chocolate bars at Dunedin City Council facilities, with the council looking at running a trial on the issue. Photo by Tim Miller

Healthy food may soon be found next to the chocolate bars and soft drinks in council buildings, as the Dunedin City Council looks at trialling healthier food options.

But one nutrition specialist says the council needs to be brave and replace all unhealthy options if they want the policy to work.

Council staff will soon report to councillors on the progress of a healthy food policy, which would look at ways the council could provide more healthy food in facilities such as Moana Pool.

University of Otago department of nutrition researcher Penny Field applauded the council for looking at any policy that would increase healthy food, but would like to see it take the initiative further and take away all unhealthy food and drink.

''Councils are in a pretty influential position when it comes to guiding public policy so I would like to see them go cold turkey and only offer healthy food, only if it is just for a trial.''

The council would have to look at ways to make healthy food attractive, such as making it cheaper and more visible than unhealthy food, Ms Field said.

''There is no point in offering healthy food if it is priced the same as fizzy drink or chocolate bars or is tucked away at the bottom of the machine.''

Research showed environment was an important part in a healthy lifestyle and food offered in public places was part of that.

Council parks, recreation and aquatics manager Mick Reece said the council had a duty to make sure it offered healthy food at places like Moana Pool and other council facilities.

Unhealthy food and drink would not be taken away, as the council was not in the business of telling people how to live, Mr Reece said.

''Once you start to take items away, you are dictating to people and that is likely to turn them against any proposal,'' he said.

The initial proposal - to look at food choices at Moana Pool - was likely to be extended to other council facilities, Mr Reece said.

''In the end it is up to the public. If we give them the healthy food options and [they] don't buy it, then we will have to take it away.''

Councillors Jinty MacTavish and Aaron Hawkins were contacted by supporters on social media asking them to look at removing unhealthy food from council organisations.

Both councillors told The Star they supported the council offering more choice but did not want to comment on how far any policy should be taken until they were shown the report.

- by Tim Miller 

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