Eating healthy foods comes at a cost

Archer Van Zijl-Reihana (3) eats baked potato with cheese, carrot and tuna at City Heights Montessori Childcare yesterday. Photo by Peter McIntosh.
Archer Van Zijl-Reihana (3) eats baked potato with cheese, carrot and tuna at City Heights Montessori Childcare yesterday. Photo by Peter McIntosh.
With prices for healthy food rising and junk food getting cheaper, shopping is becoming tougher - and a researcher says that supermarkets are not making it any easier.

University of Otago human nutrition researcher Dr Lisa Te Morenga says the situation was made worse by the supermarkets running losses on junk foods to bring in customers.

An example of this was a supermarket chain in Dunedin last week selling chocolate bars for 69c.

The latest Statistics New Zealand food price index showed in the year to the end of May, fresh milk prices were up 11.1%, the highest on record, and vegetable prices up 8.7%, while the price of ''confectionery, nuts and snacks'' was down 4%.

York Place Pre-School and Nursery head teacher Yvonne Baynes said the rising price of healthy foods meant ''kids are getting fizz rather than milk''.

''Our lunch-boxes are full of potato chips and Roll-ups because they are so much cheaper than fruit and vegetables,'' Ms Baynes said.

Apart from making life tougher for parents, rising prices were also adding to the preschool's costs, as it provided morning and afternoon tea.

The fact milk was now too expensive for many parents meant the preschool was giving its children milk twice a day.

Dr Te Morenga said it was disappointing supermarkets promoted unhealthy foods so heavily.

''They take a loss on those foods, but they don't take a loss on healthy foods.

''I personally would love to see supermarkets being told they just cannot heavily discount junk food like that and take them on as loss leaders.''

The temptation was particularly hard for ''hungry, growing teenagers'' faced with a decision on how to spend their pocket money.

Research showed there was a connection between the cost of both unhealthy and healthy foods and obesity rates - particularly in children.

''The changing prices of food have a real impact on the choices made by people on low incomes.''

She also supported introducing taxes on sugary drinks.

''We need to set some ground rules as a society to say these are the foods we don't want you to be spending your money on.''

A Countdown spokeswoman said it ran specials across its ''full product range''.

''We work really hard to deliver cheaper prices on a variety of groceries because we know that's important to our customers,'' the spokeswoman said.

Its prices on fresh produce had increased at ''well below the national average'' over the past five years, she said.

A spokeswoman for Foodstuffs, which runs New World and Pak'n Save supermarkets, gave a similar response.

''No single product or group of products is specifically used to loss lead.

''Each week, an appropriate mix of products are provided on special to meet our customers' needs,'' the spokeswoman said.

Neither company accepted any responsibility for rising obesity rates.



Don't blame supermarkets, government etc

People eat what they like to eat. They choose from admittedly a less and less heavily available 'kite' or 'Rourou' but we all choose. What we need to do is refocus on human responsibility for oneself! Stop blaming other people.

Oh and by the way, I hate going to the supermarket or veggie shops because I can hardly afford to do so now that I am a pensioner. $526 a fortnight does not go far.

High food prices

The supermarkets can't be blamed for this: successive governments have overseen the increases in food prices and have refused to remove the tax on fresh fruit and vegetables, which is a tax on nutrition. If they could find a way to tax oxygen and sunlight, I reckon they would.

Not surprising

80% of all food in a grocery store contains added sugar.  In other words, it's processed junk food.  As for the expense of eating healthy, it can be done but requires effort. 
Sourdough bread is easy to make, a healthy option and cheap (flour, water, salt).  Frozen veggies can be had on special.. I have at times had about 5kg of frozen veggies for under $10.  Dried beans are cheap, they can be soaked overnight then cooked up in a cheap pressure cooker - you'll end up with 6 cups of beans for next to nothing and no BPA or added sugar in them.  The farmers market and Veggie Boys can have extremely cheap deals. 
But in the end people want pure convenience and sugar (they are all addicted).  The masses are willing to die a slow horrible death for their bad choices.  To make matters worse the big chains know this and getting their money for cheap processed crap is hilariously easy.  It's like being a crack dealer with a warehouse that sells 1000 variations of crack.  What else can you expect from sociopaths in positions of power?  Profit before all else.

Not always a choice

Gerald Cunningham: There's a difference between cheap, sugary/fatty foods likely to cause obesity and more exspensive healthy food. When you are on a limited income like myself and many others which after bills (rent/power/phone/medical) leeaves me $50-70 for food, it's usually a choice beween eating 3 cheap meals a day or and eating fewer meals a day and having healty food. Feeding a family would be even worse.

They aren't suggesting they dictate what we eat, but putting healthy food on a level playing ground in which it actually then becomes a choice.

The real problem is these proposals actually don't fix the underlying problen of take home pay levels. If people can't afford healthy food now and you make the lesser foods dearer it just going to compound the problem.

They either have to get wages up or the cost of healthy food down. The are several ways to do this - removing GST on fruit and veges would be a start assuming the retails don't just absorb the price reduction as extra profit. 


Problem more complex

It's true that food is way more expensive in NZ than it is elsewhere, but I disagree with this junk-food-lunchbox theory. Parents pack junk food because it's easy and kids like to eat it.

My kids' kindy forbids packaged food. Guess what? No one eats it. Nobody is any financially better off at our kindy than others, but our parents take time to cut up some fruits and veggies.

Sure, milk is more expensive than fizzy. That's true everywhere. Just skip buying the fizzy and buy what milk one can afford. Or stop thinking kids drinking milk is the only way to be nourished.

This problem is way more complex than saying "milk and veggies are expensive in NZ," it's time to do all of us a favour and realise that. . 

Junk food

This junk food theory does not make much sense. If people are becoming obese surely that would indicate that food, including junk food in New Zealand, is plentiful and cheap. People have the right to eat what they like. If we start to dictate what Kiwis should or should not eat we take away a basic human right. 

This is not news

Well, only to those who can afford to eat no matter what the infated prices may be. Ask someone on a beneifit what they eat then ask their member of parliament what they eat. I am a guy on my own and spent $250 at the supermarket (5 bags full) last week, so really struggle to think what a family of five costs to feed these days. In this "rockstar economy" we must be the groupies.

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