Removing GST from fresh and frozen fruit and vegetables as proposed by the Labour Party recognises the crisis in access to healthy food – but is not the most effective solution, Health Coalition Aotearoa says.
For low-income whānau, we know that fresh fruit and vegetables have become prohibitively expensive, while those on middle to high incomes are more likely to continue buying these products.
“If Labour is willing to put half a billion dollars a year on the table, they should invest in policies that will result in less expensive, healthier diets among those families struggling,” HCA Professor Boyd Swinburn said.
HCA co-chair Dr Lisa Te Morenga said prices of fruit and vegetables are so high that removing GST will make a very small difference to our lowest income whānau
“Maori whanau are disproportionately represented amongst our poorest families and have the lowest ability to buy fruit and vegetables.”
“Labour is arguing that because those on the lowest-incomes spend a greater proportion of their budget on fruit and vegetables – if they can buy them at all – removing GST will make a bigger difference to those families on average.”
“But the limited benefit gained by this measure is set against a context of extreme disadvantage, in comparison to middle to high income-earners,” Te Morenga said.
HCA urges all political parties to increase provision of evidence-based solutions such as the Ka Ora, Ka Ako – Healthy School Lunches programme – to help with the high cost of healthy food and children’s nutrition.
The programme is delivered to 25 per cent of schools in the lowest socio-economic areas at a cost of $320m per year and has many positive impacts on individual students and their whānau, schools, and the local community. HCA wants the programme delivered to at least 50 per cent of schools.
We want to see policies that increase support for alternatives to the supermarket duopoly such as food hubs supplying communities with locally grown and more affordable healthy food – and social supermarkets.
HCA supports Labour’s proposed increase in family tax credits – which will help more families access healthy foods and services. However, more support is needed for those living in poverty, including increased benefits for those who are not eligible for Working for Families tax credits.
In addition to targeted support for access to healthy kai, the Government’s efforts to break the supermarket duopoly should be a priority to achieve fairer prices for healthy kai.
For more information or to arrange an interview: Cate Macintosh 0278365001