A few days ago, I was standing in line at the supermarket check-out with my small(ish) trolley, proudly laden with “clean” wholesome foods when not entirely unexpectedly, a fellow shopper appeared behind me. Now I’m not a particularly approachable supermarket shopper, but this lady had seen the various company fitness logos on my T-shirt and forced me to break my insular habit and started the very thing I had successfully spend years avoiding in supermarkets, a conversation.
Then, undoubtedly sensing my need for rescue, a young, pre-teen boy appeared on the scene and interrupted her mid sentence. He was excitedly holding a family bag of mini chocolate bars above his head, and with a look that screamed “addicted to sugar” pleadingly presented a case to have the bag of low nutritious high energy food added to the trolley’s contents. Now, I know what you’re thinking, and yes, the lady was overweight, the content of the trolley at least in part explained why, but more to the point, so was the young chap.
This reminded me of a UNICEF OECD Report Card published this year that showed how NZ had come in second only to the US in our child obesity rankings. Very grim statistics indeed.
A much more recent and global based study, led by Imperial College London and published in The Lancet, also came up with some worrying insights. These in particular showed that “Pacific island countries in Oceania had the highest mean BMI (Body Mass Index) in the world in 2019”. Their study included over 50 million young persons from more than 200 countries and territories aged between 5 and 19 years.
The findings of these studies are mirrored by our own Ministry of Health statistics. 1 in 9 kids aged between 2 and 14 years in NZ are obese. But the issue is that this figure pales in comparison with what happens to people in NZ when they age. Because as we age that 1 in 9 suddenly becomes 1 in 3. Yes! 1 in 3 adults in NZ (aged 15 years and over) is obese.
Now these figures are not news to me personally, I have written about the grim NZ obesity statistics before, but the thing is as I become more and more involved in the welfare and health of our young through club and community interactions, I can’t fathom why this epidemic is receiving so little attention at the root of the problem. Clearly all those in power can see the long-term effect, it is part of our every day lives already. And let’s be honest about this, pulling out all the stops for the Covid-19 pandemic is commendable, but ignoring a health crisis like this should at the very least be described as deliberately negligent.
The Government’s own statistics will confirm this crisis is likely to kill many more than the worst predictions on Covid-19. But hey, this issue isn’t going to win an election. Now before those who think this is a dig at those currently in the vestiges of power and burst a blood vessel, calm down. This is not a left versus right issue, if anything I lean backwards. This is a profound issue that’s been around longer than our current Government and it’ll be around long after. It needs fixing because the long-term health and economic consequences are too great to ignore. And these are our kids, and if we are to take a page from the left leaning play-book, “it takes a village to raise a child.”
But back to my awkward supermarket moment. As I stood there chatting, I was able to compare the price of my small amount of groceries with the enormous haul that weighed down the Lady’s trolley. And in the end, it really was quite shocking to see just how much cheaper low nutritious, high energy, sugar and trans-fat rich food is compared to the healthier alternatives.
So, imagine my sudden optimism when our leaders announced a Commerce Commission Inquiry into supermarket price gauging, with the new Minister of Commerce and Consumer Affairs proudly announcing a market study to ensure New Zealanders are paying a fair price for groceries.
But my optimism was short-lived. There was no mention from the Minister about cost versus nutrition in his announcement. In fact, it was the corporate behemoth Foodstuffs that has taken the lead here and announced a corporate social responsibility commitment across its business called "Here for New Zealand". An initiative designed to support organisations like City Missions and foodbanks that help vulnerable families access healthy and affordable food.
I wish it was possible to write a call-to-arms here and offer a quick solution. But there simply isn’t one. What I can say is that taking some personal responsibility by changing habits over time with support and individual exercise plans create long term change. Come see us and find out how we can help you achieve that. That part of it is up to you.