Drop price of good food - study

21:24, Sep 01 2009

Discount cards or vouchers for cut-price, healthy food have been proposed for the poor and chronically ill.

Research by an Otago University health economist proposes a food-discount system similar to the food stamps distributed to the poor in the United States.

Des O'Dea will present his Government-funded research today at a public health conference in Dunedin. His investigation was commissioned by the Labour government.

O'Dea and colleagues from Otago University's Wellington campus considered whether the GST on fruit and vegetables should be scrapped, but decided that would be difficult to administer.

The Ministry of Health will consider the findings and recommendations.

The voucher or discount-card system has been supported, in principle, by dietitians and health lobby groups.

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However, some believed it would be better to drop the GST on fruit and vegetables.

Diabetes New Zealand president Chris Baty said any scheme that allowed people to eat more healthy food was a positive move.

However, everyone should be able to get a discount on fruit and vegetables, she said.

"We should be putting a fence at the top of the hill rather than waiting with an ambulance at the bottom. It's more expensive to provide healthy food to everyone and preventative care but it will be far better in the long run."

Baty said eating healthy food could help prevent obesity and, in turn, cancer, diabetes and other chronic illnesses that cost the health system.

Healthy eating should start early and it was disappointing the Government had scrapped bans on unhealthy food in school tuckshops, she said.

Public health nutritionist Bronwen King said she supported the discounted food concept, which would ideally include fresh fruit, vegetables and milk.

It would be difficult to determine which other foods would be discounted but a worthwhile effort, she said.

The Government understood that if people could not afford to buy food, let alone healthy products, it was a real problem and was trying to remedy it, King said.

The Press