Opinion: Address our broken food system for real change in price of food.

by | Apr 27, 2022 | News

The price of food in New Zealand is rising. We can’t rely on charities alone (like food rescue agencies) to feed our hungry people. We need to address the complex issues in our broken food system to make real changes to the price of food, says Emily King, Director and Food Systems Expert at Spira.

The price of food just rose again. Stats NZ reports food prices increased 6.8 percent in the year ended February 2022. Compared with February 2021:

  • fruit and vegetable prices increased 17 percent

  • meat, poultry, and fish prices increased 7.1 percent

  • grocery food prices increased 5.4 percent

  • non-alcoholic beverage prices increased 2.3 percent

  • restaurant meals and ready-to-eat food prices increased 5.2 percent.

The reasons? Covid disrupting global supply chains; extreme weather events disrupting global supply chains; Aotearoa being remote and reliant on shipping for imports (expensive to get here because it’s further); war causing a rise in fuel prices (food is transported by fuel and it becomes more expensive if the cost of fuel is higher); and inflation is on the rise. Also nationally our farmers and growers have borne the brunt of labour shortages due to travel restrictions, and higher costs of operating which affects the price.

Covid is affecting incomes and jobs, people now sick and taking time off or losing their jobs as a result, despite us having a tight labour market and one of the lowest unemployment rates ever.

Last week I attended the Aotearoa Food Rescue Alliance (AFRA) hui where the Minister for Social Development Hon Carmel Sepuloni reiterated this exact point. War, inflation and covid 19 exacerbate food security issues for families already hit hard and struggling with the cost of living, she explained. Those already feeling the impact will be worse off. All of this highlighting the need for the exceptional work that our food rescue and food distribution agencies are doing to get a phenomenal amount of meals out to people doing it tough right now. In the year January 2021-2022, nationally it’s estimated by AFRA that over 10 million kilograms of food was diverted from landfill and ‘rescued’ to feed people, totally a whopping 29 million meals, with an eye watering $76 million in retail value. It’s serious business with a network of hundreds of rescue agencies and thousands of people — mostly volunteers — working hard to get people fed in this time of need. So what’s going on?

My response to the current discussions on the rising price of food— and the associated heavy leaning we are doing on our charities today to plug the gap — is that this is a complex topic that encompasses far more than price, and it warrants looking further into this complexity.

*Many communities struggle every day to feed themselves, thanks to a broken food system that does not serve them well. It’s broken because they cannot access affordable, nutritious and healthy food …

See here for the full article, extracted from Emily King’s upcoming book: Re-Food, available 2022.

Spria are food system experts at the forefront of food resilience and sustainability. The consultancy works to cultivate change for a better food system, focusing on the resilience and sustainability of food systems. They also work with food businesses wanting to lead the world with an authentic story of their food.

Photo credit: Unsplash

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