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Maori find solutions to own food security problems

25 May 2009

Maori find solutions to own food security problems

A new toolkit detailing and celebrating projects to improve food security for Maori is being launched by the Obesity Action Coalition today.

Food Security Among Maori in Aotearoa – Part II is designed to give communities ideas about what they can do to improve their food security.

Food security exists when all whanau, at all times, are able to access enough safe and nutritious foods to live an active and healthy life.

The toolkit was developed by Te Hotu Manawa Maori (THMM) an organisation that delivers by Maori for Maori health services. THMM nutrition and physical activity manager, Leonie Matoe says while there is considerable disparity in the levels of food security between Maori and non-Maori, there are a number of projects around the country which are helping to lessen that disparity.

“Food security is not about personal choice alone. It is often the result of environmental factors such as the proximity of the household to quality supermarkets and to fast food outlets.

“Many Maori live in socially deprived areas where it is difficult to access healthy food. But there are some wonderful projects around the country that are making a demonstrable difference.

“These include kohanga growing their own fruit and vegetables, a kura planting feijoa trees as a windbreak, a marae purchasing fruit wholesale and selling it on to whanau for no profit, and local health providers advocating for petrol stations to sell fruit instead of having specials on unhealthy foods like chocolate bars.”
She says obesity and food insecurity are linked. “Research shows that households that are the least food-secure have people with the highest body mass index. This is because foods high in fat and sugar are the cheaper option.”

Leone Matoe also says it is vital that solutions to issues of food security are found by Maori themselves.

“Maori need to develop solutions to our own food security problems, solutions that are based on a kaupapa Maori approach. It is this approach that makes the projects in this toolkit successful.”


The report is available electronically here.


Food Security among Maori in Aotearoa – Part II says food security exists when all whanau, at all times, are able to access enough safe and nutritious foods to live an active and healthy life. In contrast, food insecurity exists when whanau are unable to access enough healthy food, experience hunger, consume less nutritious foods due to limited options, experience anxiety due to difficulty in accessing nutritious food or rely on food relief.
Maori experience food insecurity to a greater degree than European and other New Zealanders. However, a number of projects around the country to counter this are making a difference. Food Security Among Maori in Aotearoa – Part II has case studies of some of these projects.

Themes from the report
• Food security is made up of food supply – which includes price, quality, variety; and access to food – which depends on things like financial resources, distance and transport to shops, storage facilities, time and mobility. These in turn depend on factors like employment, education, housing and social inclusion.
• While all these factors contributing to food security can seem daunting there are several things that can be done at local level, including advocacy.
• The projects highlighted in the toolkit include:

(i) Ninety-nine percent of kohanga reo in the Whanganui region participating in a project in which kohanga whanau grow and provide for themselves healthy and nutritious kai.
(ii) A campaign for whanau to be allowed to take their own food into a swimming pool complex where the price of a sandwich was $6.50 and food from home was banned.
(iii) In Wellington, a 15-fold increase, in less than a year, in the amount of fruit and vegetables sold under a programme providing fruit and veg at wholesale prices to members of a marae who had been struggling to afford such food.
(iv) A programme which now has up to 100 families from the Maraenui community lining up to grow their own fruit and vegetables.
(v) A project that has focussed on highlighting the number of alcohol, gambling and fast food outlets in areas of high deprivation in Bay of Plenty.

It is with such small projects that big changes can come about, particularly when the projects are administered by Maori themselves.

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