Sugar Tax ? Here's A Sweeter Solution.
Britain's decision yesterday to impose a sugar tax on fizzy drinks will generate a lot of debate over the coming days. I saw John Key for example say on TV ONE news last night that we won't be doing it because "they don't actually work".
Quite how our Prime Minister did the research to reach such a firm view so quickly after the British Conservative Party's surprise budget announcement is as amazing as it is unimportant. Because to focus just on taxing sugary drinks is to be blind to the greater issue of what causes obesity in New Zealand children and young people.
The real problem is how to educate and encourage our kids to eat a healthy diet.
So it seems to me that :
(1) We have to make it financially possible for our kids to have access to healthy food .
The reason obesity is more of a problem for children from poorer homes is because foods high in sugar are often cheaper than healthy foods. So taking GST off fruit and vegetables and core food items would be a good start.
(And don't tell me it's not possible or too difficult to have exemptions from GST on selected food items because both Australia and the UK do it)
(2) We have to educate the palates of young people so they simply don't desire so much sugar.
How do we do that?
How do we educate the palate of a nation?
Answer: Provide Free Healthy school meals to ALL children of ALL ages at school.
It's what they've been doing in Sweden since 1973 and if we did the same for our kids we'd not only improve the health and well- being of our children, we'd save so much money in later hospital treatments for obesity related health issues and state funded dental care, that the scheme would very likely return the set up costs of such a scheme several times over in just one generation.
(And yes all allergies and cultural tastes can be provided for and No it's not compulsory, parents can opt their children out of the free school meal programme. )
The other bonus is that the pastoral demand on teacher's working in schools in poorer areas is greatly reduced so that they can focus on teaching not catering. Because there are a lot of teachers in our country spending part of their day just making sure their students have something to eat.
And what would such a scheme look like?
Just click on the video clip to find out.
It's on my website and it comes from my 2011 documentary INSIDE CHILD POVERTY where I filmed kids having lunch in a Swedish school located in a low socio-economic area and compared it to kids have lunch in a similar New Zealand school.
Please share the link.
On another day I'll post a clip from footage I shot in a Finnish school where students are learning how to prepare nutritious meals like the ones they eat everyday in the school restaurant.
PS. According to the OECD the percentage of obese adults in Sweden is 11.7%. In New Zealand it is 32.2%
Want to join the discussion?
Who is Bryan Bruce?
Bryan Bruce is an award winning documentary maker, and best selling author. Born in Scotland in 1948, his family emigrated to New Zealand in 1956. He grew up in Christchurch and attended the University of Canterbury where he graduated with an M.A. in Sociology and Philosophy and Christchurch Teacher’s College where he earned a Diploma in Teaching.
Bryan is best known for his work on 'The Investigator' documentary series, 'Inside Child Poverty' and 'Mind The Gap'.