Food for Thought

More carrot, less stick might help do the trick.  
Taxes on ‘bad’ foods are the dish du jour in nutrition policy,’ says Prof J.T. Winkler in the BMJ commenting on a study where the authors propose even more taxes – just a bit higher despite acknowledging that most taxes are small, based on flawed evidence, and have limited, even negative, effects. ‘These are unlikely to be adopted and would be ineffective if they were,’ writes Winkler. While Katherine Rich, CEO of the New Zealand Food and Grocery Council pointedly notes: ‘I have heard many times the idea of food taxes. But I have never heard the idea of a food tax – be it sugar of fat – being championed by anyone who was not comfortably drawing a six-figure salary at the time.’

#1. Instead of talking taxes on ‘bad’ food, how about we tell the powers-that-be that we want them to look at ways of making the healthy choice the cheaper choice. A new meta-analysis from Harvard suggests that healthier choices do indeed cost more. The researchers report that diets rich in fruits, vegetables, fish, and nuts (which would indeed be healthy and low GI) – cost more than diets rich in processed foods, meats, and refined grains. Totting it all up, the Harvard team calculate that it costs about $1.50 more per person per day to make the healthy choice. Over a year for a family of four, that’s about $2200. We think, for some people, that's on the low side. Research shows that rural Australians pay much more for fresh food than city-dwellers do (A$9 for six mushrooms or A$4.50 for one small piece of broccoli or cauliflower).

 #2. Instead of talking taxes on ‘bad’ food, how about we tell the powers-that-be that we want them to look at ways of making sport and recreation more accessible and affordable for young and old. From swimming lessons (an essential), to signing up for winter and summer sports, taking part in organised sport is increasingly expensive (club fees and kit and travel), and out of reach of many families, especially single parent ones.

#3. Instead of talking taxes on ‘bad’ food, how about we tell the powers-that-be that we want them to be looking at ways of opening stairwells so we all can get more puff into our day. Prof Arya Sharma has suggested that perhaps we should be thinking of establishing codes for ‘active’ buildings. He describes the new Edmonton Clinic Health Academy where you are immediately faced with a wide open staircase (not stairwell!) on entering the building and the elevators are rather hidden in a corner.

#4 Instead of talking taxes on ‘bad’ food, how about we tell the powers-that-be we want them to boost food literacy and teach every child to cook says Nicole Senior. ‘Fast food is so much easier to avoid if you can whip up something tasty quickly. It’s so much easier to eat well if you know what to do with healthy ingredients (and you know what different ingredients are!). Every child should know milk comes from a cow and at the very least the difference between parsley and basil. Ideally they would know basil tastes divine with ripe tomato and how to grow them in the garden, pot or Styrofoam box. Food skills are living skills and if we build them up, we’ll be less vulnerable to unhealthy food marketing.’

Free fruit for kids

Harris Farm Markets keep a well-stocked barrel of fruit at the entrance of their produce stores. This picture was taken at the new Harris Farms Markets Bondi Beach store on Hall Street. We think this is a great ‘More Carrot, Less Stick’ initiative. ‘Thumbs Up’ from the GI News team.