The life skill of eating healthy food

Hort Talk
with Mike Chapman
HorticultureNZ CEO

We are facing a healthy food crisis in New Zealand – we don’t eat enough healthy food.

A Ministry of Health study has found only 40 per cent of us are eating enough fruit and vegetables. The impact on our health and the cost of providing healthcare are extreme, particularly in terms of heart disease and obesity.

The impact of this is shown in research by KPMG that found obesity’s global economic impact is US$2 trillion or 2.8 per cent of global Gross Domestic Product each year. 

We have two standout programmes that promote healthy eating among children in New Zealand.

The first picks up on children being able to cook healthy meals using vegetables. Preparing a healthy and nourishing meal is part of the New Zealand curriculum for Year 7-8 students. However, a survey done by Massey University dietetic Masters students found only 13 per cent of teachers identified students as being able to plan and prepare a complete and healthy meal. and the Heart Foundation have formed a partnership to change this. They’ve prepared resources to help teachers incorporate preparing vegetables into cooking classes. For more information, go to: And for resources, see:

Second, there is the 5+ A Day programme that provides fresh fruit and vegetables to pupils in low-decile schools. This programme reaches 120,000 children each school day and provides 24 million servings of fresh fruit and vegetables every year. The programme is backed up by extensive curriculum resources.

Independent research has found 83 per cent of the principals surveyed said the overall health of their pupils would decline if this programme stopped. Interestingly enough, seven out of 10 parents said the programme encourages them to provide healthy food at home.

The impact of these two programmes as these children grow up will be profound. Getting into the habit of healthy eating and also being taught how to prepare healthy food will ripple throughout New Zealand and as a result, reduce what happens when we do not eat healthy food.

Health has always been good business for a variety of enterprises. Now that is expanding into a rapidly growing consumer awareness of the need to eat healthy food. This is good business for those who grow vegetables and fruit. It is even better business for our country to have a healthier population with young people who can cook and want to eat healthy food.

The message to take home is eat healthy food, and tell your local Member of Parliament that both these programmes need continued funding support from the Government.


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