A big issue we face in local body elections is knowing who to vote for. For those of us interested in moving to more sustainable food systems, the District Health Board (DHB) elections are very important. Our health system remains largely focussed on dealing with primary health care based on orthodox approaches. The massive investment taxpayers make in our health system is captured increasingly by the treatment of non-communicable diseases – for example type 2 diabetes. The default treatments are pharmaceuticals.
I am not qualified in health, but as a person interested in my health and the health of my whanau, I want to see the health system focus much more on nutrition and system change to ensure that all New Zealanders have access to fresh, mostly unprocessed, healthy food. When we achieve this, I am confident that health care will cost a lot less. We will be spending less money on pills and more on food.
Corporate kitchen operators have a reputation nation-wide for cutting corners on the quality of meals delivered to patients. A hospital that feeds, even occasionally, patients biscuits for breakfast, is sending exactly the wrong message to them. Thankfully the Northland DHB was the only DHB to resist the national rollout of pre-packaged meals shipped from out of centralised kitchens. The board insisted that food would continue to be prepared in their hospital’s kitchens. An even better outcome would be to have the kitchen run by local businesses, who purchase directly from local growers.
This reveals two key policies for DHB candidates to champion:
- Supporting the localisation of food supplied from hospital kitchens and cafeterias.
- Embedding the importance of good nutrition as as a cornerstone of health initiatives.
So far, I know of two candidates for the 2016 elections that are supportive of these aspirations, Debbie Evans and Libby Jones. There may be others – who can you add to the list?
Debbie Evans (left) and Libby Jones
Local Food Northland has an aspiration to have 2,000 members by mid 2017. Ideally, in time for the next round of local body elections, we will have at least 5,000. If you want to help us to create a stronger collective voice to influence the policy makers, join us.