Kiwis can't 'choose' to eat healthy

Last updated 06:00 18/02/2014

BUDGET BLOWOUT: Fresh fruit and vege may be out of reach financially for many Kiwis.

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The go-to solution for resolving any problems in New Zealand seems to be "let's just add more tax".

This is a juvenile and uneducated answer to any problem.

Fighting obesity in New Zealand is something that needs attention, but it seems everyone is looking at the end result, not the causes.

I agree that in some cases obesity is self-inflicted, however, for a large portion of the population, the reason is purely financial.

In New Zealand it is often cheaper to buy a kilogram of potatoes, cut, deep-fried, salted and wrapped than it is to buy them fresh in a supermarket.

The problem is not that bad food is so readily available, but that a healthy option is often financially unavailable.

As a rather well-off, mid-20s male from Christchurch, I find my largest supermarket expenditure comes from the fresh produce section. I often choose to buy "half cut" and/or "dated" produce because even though I could afford the full-price fresh product, I cannot justify the cost.

I often like celery as a snack, however the last price I saw celery at was $4 a bunch. That is not OK.

If I choose not to pay that with a reasonable amount of disposable income, how is someone with a lower income supposed to afford these sorts of prices?

This is where junk food becomes the choice. Why buy children four or five apples for snacks when you can buy potato chips for less? That is where the problem starts.

Other countries really highlight that we live in an archaic system. When Australia implemented GST, fresh produce was automatically exempt, as common sense would dictate - fresh produce is a fundamental living resource.

It is quite easy for me to offer my view, but what about a solution? That is out of my hands. Though at a guess, I would suggest:

- Removing GST from ALL fresh produce, imported or otherwise.

- Incentives for health professionals for provide free nutritional consultations for those willing to try to improve their wellbeing. We as a nation are bombarded with dieting theories, though we are never told how to do it ourselves - unless we can afford it. Information and education is the key to self-improvement, and without it, we are all just stabbing in the dark.

- More healthy takeaway places: Do you know that in Christchurch I haven't been able to find a salad bar? I once lived in a small town in Australia, and there were two salad bars in the town centre. Current places we have make it too difficult or inconvenient to get a healthy option for "special diet" patrons.

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Eating healthy is not often a choice. We are being held to the Government's ransom of paying over the odds to eat what we should, and unless our leaders get their heads out of the sand soon it will be just another tax on an already financially inept nation. 

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