• May 27, 2020
Not having access to healthy food affects learning say experts. Photo: Bernadette Basagre
Increasing numbers of children with “roaring hunger” find it difficult to concentrate, as they struggle to have healthy food options in New Zealand, says a leading nutritionist.
Families lacking time, money and cooking ideas leads to so many children “not having access to good food," says Sarah Hanrahan, CEO of NZ Nutrition.
The non-profit organisation uses educational programmes such as Just Cook to help Kiwis to eat healthily.
“It could be too expensive, it can be food that is not familiar to them and they don’t know what to do with it… often people might not necessarily have time to put a lunchbox together.
"If you don’t have access to good transport or a family car, expecting to get fruits and vegetables home is a problem,” Ms Hanrahan said.
Meanwhile Todd Mantle said the Covid-19 crisis has increased sales of his Complete Kids Nutrition, created to help parents struggling to feed their children.
He said there was a “genuine need for something that wasn’t in the market.”
Inspired by Mr Mantle’s own daughter being a fussy eater, the business makes healthy superfood shakes aimed at children 4-12 years old.
He believed the lockdown sales increase was because people “have extra time on their hands” to look for convenient online food options online rather than going to supermarkets.
However Ms Hanrahan said while there has been a surge in healthy food options in stores, they are often far more expensive.
“For people who can afford [healthy food] that’s great, it’s a good option to have… it’s more where kids don’t have access to healthy options due to financial barriers,” she says.
The expert says a nutritious meal for children has a big impact on “their health and strength of their immune system and even things like the ability to concentrate. If a child is sitting there with roaring hunger, it’s quite difficult for them to concentrate on learning.”
The Ministry of Health has ditched their efforts from 2010 to crack down on the unhealthy tuckshop food available at school to address high obesity rates.
Ms Hanrahan said the axing of these guidelines means schools are selling “less healthy options, that kids would choose to spend their money on".
Since then no programme has emerged, but the ministry aims to launch the School Lunch Programme in 2021, providing free nutritious lunch to year one to eight students who struggle to afford or access healthy lunches.