6 Jun 2012

MPs told food prices key to Maori children's development

7:21 pm on 6 June 2012

MPs have heard that making food more affordable can lead to Maori children becoming healthier and happier.

The Maori Affairs Select Committee has been sitting at Hoani Waititi Marae in west Auckland on Wednesday, listening to evidence for the inquiry into the determinants of well-being for tamariki.

Politicians heard a range of opinions, including one that every Maori child has a right to a healthy food supply.

The health service provider, Te Hotu Manawa Maori (The Maori Heartbeat), said food price is directly linked to food choice.

The organisation's nutrition and physical activity manager Leonie Matoe suggests the Government introduces a smart card loaded with money - which can only be spent on basic, healthy groceries.

She says smart cards would be electronically coded and aimed at low-income whanau.

Ms Matoe says the card could provide a subsidy on the very basics, such as milk, cereals, and fresh, frozen or canned fruit and vegetables.

She says the smart card option would be a lot cheaper than wiping GST off healthy food - because it's a targeted approach to people with hugh needs

Ms Matoe says there's been a phenomenal increase in the price of food in the past few years.

Te Hotu Manawa Maori says four years ago a mother with a four-year-old and a one-year-old would spend $104 on a basic supermarket shop each week.

Today, that mother would be paying $123.

The Maori Affairs Select Committee is due to hear more submissions in Wellington.