Sara Zipf, former Financial Adviser from LA, wrote this article for Everybody Eats to show us how a little awareness and advocacy can be all it takes for families to learn to live comfortably on a budget, without going hungry.

Nearly one in five children in New Zealand are living in “relative poverty”, as reported by Stats NZ. This number rises to one in four in the Māori population, indicating that despite New Zealand’s relative wealth, food insecurity is a pressing problem for many adults and children. The outbreak of C19 has thrown fuel into the fire, with the Auckland City Mission estimating that food insecurity is up from 10% to 20% as a result of factors such as panic buying, job losses and other issues. As reported by the Child Poverty Action Group, food insecurity can be battled through awareness and advocacy. Steps such as expanded school lunch groups are one vital step, but teaching families the importance of preparing healthy, nutritious, affordable meals can also ensure that both adults and children do not experience hunger or malnutrition.

Free Nutrition Education Programmes in New Zealand

One often assumes that healthy eating starts with parents, but learning the importance that affordable yet healthy choices can make should begin in childhood. There is a select number of school-based nutrition education programmes for children in New Zealand, one of which is Food for Thought. The latter is offered to children in Years 5 and 6, educating them to make healthy food choices that are also budget-friendly. Children not only learn about the nutritional content of food but also go on out-of-school excursions to supermarkets. There, they can put their learning into practice while also taking into account the price of various foods.

Fresh, Healthy Food is Less Expensive than Many Think

Through educational programmes and greater awareness, children and adults alike can discover that fast food can actually turn out to be very expensive in the long run (since unhealthy food is linked to chronic disease). Some adults are reticent to start diets such as Keto and other low-carbohydrate diets that shun cheap, fast foods made with refined carbohydrates and unhealthy fats because they fear it will raise their monthly food budget. By encouraging kids and adults to learn more about nutrition, they can learn to identify healthy from unhealthy fats. For instance, Keto proponents consume healthy fats found in foods such as fatty fish (wild tuna and salmon). These energy-giving fats are high in Omega-3 essential fatty acids, which are known to promote optimal brain function and heart health. They differ vastly from trans fats, which promote inflammation and chronic disease. Healthy fats needn’t be expensive and they needn’t be fish-based. For instance, there is a wide array of cheaper, alternative sources of healthy fats such as flax seeds, Chia seeds, and nuts and seed butters.

Initiatives Promoting Healthy Lifestyles for Adults

Initiatives such as Healthy Families NZ are working collaboratively with local leaders and organisations to help people make healthier food choices. They work alongside staff in workplaces, sports clubs, businesses, and more. Through projects like The Rosebank Wellbeing Collab, businesses are learning that by investing in the workplace, they can become more financially successful. The Collab encourages businesses to get staff active, encourage healthy nutrition, and provide information on the ease of preparing affordable, delicious homecooked meals that can help with targets such as weight loss or maintenance.

Preparing healthy, affordable meals at home is about more than following celebrity Chef’s recipes. It is closely linked to battling food insecurity through greater awareness of nutrition. Dedicated programmes aimed at teaching children and adults about nutrition are a key step towards debunking the myth that good, healthy food is incompatible with a small monthly food budget.

Sara Zipf

For additional interesting reading and to show a different perspective, you might also enjoy reading this Spinoff article by Dr Rebekah Graham.

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