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How well does the New Zealand food supply deliver against the dietary guidelines?

Back in February, Emeritus Professor Elaine Rush from Auckland University of Technology presented to New Zealand Nutrition Foundation members, the results of a study she had led looking at New Zealand’s food exports and imports in relation to dietary guidelines.

Fast forward to June 2020, and the conversation around food systems is one being had on global scale. How our food systems work, and their vulnerabilities have been revealed through the COVID-19 pandemic.

As the world begins to experience what some are calling the recession of a generation, dramatic increases in food insecurity have made conversations about food systems more urgent.

Professor Rush’s research analysed Statistics New Zealand data on quantities of food and beverage exports between 2016 and 2018 and overlaid this with serving sizes for both everyday food groups and discretionary foods.

From this, the paper estimated that the quantity of food exports each year provides enough servings for the following numbers of people:

  • Dairy: 39 million people
  • Meat, seafood and other protein: 11.5 million people
  • Fruit and vegetables: 12 million people
  • Discretionary foods (including fats and oils, butter, wine, sugars including honey and lactose, and chocolate): 217 million people

The research concluded that New Zealand’s exports provided enough energy from foods classified as ‘every day’ and ‘discretionary’ to meet energy requirements for around 20 million people, and around 10 million people from imports, and there is a significant proportion of discretionary foods compared to everyday foods.


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