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Supermarket food boxes must be healthy - Vegetarian Society

The NZ Vegetarian Society has commended New World for its initiative in trialling an ‘essential food box’, but it says the contents of the boxes need to be much healthier. The boxes come in different sizes, and aim to provide enough food for a week. The service is targeted at elderly and vulnerable people, and families who need to shop quickly.

NZ Vegetarian Society spokesperson Philip McKibbin says that, although essential food boxes are a good idea, from a nutritional perspective they are lacking:

‘This is a great idea, because it will make life easier for people at this difficult time. It is disappointing, though, to see so many unhealthy items in these boxes. Processed meats, for example, are linked to a range of poor health outcomes, including cancer; and some of these boxes don’t appear to contain any fresh fruit or vegetables.’

Mr McKibbin says the people who would buy these boxes need healthy food, too:

‘Everyone needs to eat well, and, as we all know, that means eating more fruit and veg. It seems strange, and a bit irresponsible, that supermarkets would push unhealthy food on the elderly, people who are sick and self-isolating, and families - especially in the middle of a global pandemic. If anyone should have access to healthy food, it’s them. That’s a real service our supermarkets could provide.’

Mr McKibbin acknowledged the need to keep prices affordable - but he says that healthy food can be much more affordable than unhealthy food.

‘There are lots of healthy foods that are affordable - lentils, brown rice, and chickpeas are just a few examples. Peanut butter would make a great addition to these boxes, too. Supermarkets could help customers by providing recipe sheets, so if any of these ingredients are unfamiliar, they’ll know what to do with them.’

If all of the boxes were vegetarian, they would be accessible to even more New Zealanders. With 15% of New Zealanders now living meat-free some or all of the time, it would be in the supermarkets’ interests to explore this, too.

The NZ Vegetarian Society is willing to work with supermarkets to develop ideas for healthy food boxes, and anyone who is interested in nutritious recipes will find lots of inspiration at

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