Wednesday, 29 July 2009

Quick hit: Cheapie junk food

From Stuff today:
Reduced To Clear has arrived in Wellington, selling products - some past their best-before date - at half the price or less when compared with supermarkets and dairies.

Rongotai's store, which opened yesterday, is the second in New Zealand.

Directors Sean Hills and Andy Vermeulen say they are helping reduce waste and offer cheap alternatives in a tough economic climate. "We see it as helping the manufacturers as well, because it's stuff they'd dump otherwise," Mr Vermeulen said.

Mr Hills said a lot of customers at their South Auckland store were from communities where treats were rarely afforded, and were happy to be able to buy novelties for children's birthday parties.

...Nutritionists and health activists have criticised the deal and the shop, saying it is irresponsible to offer cut-price junk food to an increasingly overweight nation.

Fight the Obesity Epidemic's Robyn Toomath, a Wellington Hospital endocrinologist, said the new store was sending the wrong message to consumers.

"It's an encouragement to buy food they wouldn't normally buy, because it's 'value for money'," Dr Toomath said. The Government should not allow market forces to make junk food a more attractive option than it already was, and should subsidise healthy foods like fruit and vegetables.
Click through for the whole article.

It's the whole "a bottle of Coke is cheaper than a bottle of milk" problem all over again :-( This is exactly the kind of thing that makes me sceptical about The Market Will Provide mantra.


Psycho Milt said...

Toomath's whole schtick about junk food needing to more expensive to keep the lumpenproletariat from constantly stuffing their faces with it is offensive. If she'd prefer to see food companies trash this food rather than make it available for people to eat, let her come out and say so in clear terms.

Byron said...

"The Government should not allow market forces to make junk food a more attractive option than it already was, and should subsidise healthy foods like fruit and vegetables."

I get annoyed at how subsidising fruit and vegetables is always presented as the alternative, when its really just coporate welfare for the companies that produce fruit and vegetables.
A much better idea (which I've not seen anywhere) would be to subsidise people to work in community gardens; pay people for gardening (a wage, not work-for-the-dole) and they get some of the produce and money for their labour. People get decent food, some meaningfull work (which would be good in these times of high unemployment) and its better for the environment to have food produced locally. Any surplus produce could be sold cheaply as it would be a non-profit set up.

I also think the city councils should be lining streets with fruit and nut trees, its a long term thing, but in a few years people could take their recycling out to the curb, and come back with a basket of apples and walnuts.

Maia said...

Oh God I hate Robyn Toomath even more than I hate the phrase 'junk food'.

Julie I strongly disagree with the position you take here. If you're worried about the relative price of milk and coke (and I think there are real problems with the way that is framed) then hand ringing about reductions to the price of coke is ridiculous. Surely the problem is with the price of milk?

Anonymous said...

I hate it when so called "well off" busybodies tell those who struggle on a day to day basis that they should not have access to treats like what is being on offer here.

katy said...

I'm currently in Japan, a country with what is generally a pretty good diet. In relation to this I have observed a couple of things. First of all, people tend to eat quite a wide variety of foods during a meal, and portion sizes are small. Rice is also considered the "main dish", rather than a lump of protein. This works here because it is within the wider context of the cuisine so people don't feel they are abstaining from food, it is the culture around it which is good. However, this food culture is sustained by a lot of work from the women (as they are) of the family who spend their days shopping and preparing food. I find it amazing that working women would be able to provide this kind of food as it is quite labour intensive and dietary trends here correlate with female employment.

Anyway, I think it is worth talking about food and diet because this isn't something we necessarily know and yet if you are not well nourished it can have an impact psychologically and physically; or are people here disputing that??

Sarah said...

Katy, I lived in Japan for a long time (and had no weight worries while there) and yes that mix of food in a meal was great - esp always having soup with the meal. The other things to note about the way they eat is: no eating out while walking or on the train, you go to an eating place (whether at home or out) to eat. You generally don't snack - there isn't afternoon tea or morning tea unless it is a special occasion. You have a decent lunch so you don't get really hungry at 3.30 that danger time. Also if you want to grab a snack at the convenience store you eat a onigiri rice ball not a pie!

You are right about women doing the major workload for the food, but they often buy the little side dishes (gobo salada etc) at the supermarket prepared and hard to tell it's not homemade.

katy said...

Sarah, I agree that the quality of supermarket food is very good, and the point that it is really easy to buy readymade food that is healthy and downright cheap is important, I think. NZ is really lacking in this area - you can buy lovely food but is is very expensive. Here in Japan you can buy something healthy (salad, rice ball etc) from any convenience store for a couple of dollars. Companies and schools also often provide lunches that are good quality and subsidised. All of which makes me think that this is something that is quite complicated and will be difficult to make progress on in NZ without strong central support (the market will not provide!).

Anonymous said...

Err Katy. Japan is wealthy enough to provide such excellent and cheap healthy food because they do not have this run through Government. Corporations and individuals successfully manage these because of the self reliance attitude in Japan, that Govt does not nor should not be the provider.

The mere existence of these and the huge amount of them has nothing to do with "central planning" but in fact pure capitalism in action - an example of needs being met by whoever can provide.

*Sigh* This is why SE Asia is far richer than NZ. Govt does not create wealth.

Anna said...

Anon, SE Asia has several countries with diverse cultures and economies. And Japan isn't in it. Myanmar is, though - should we be modeling NZ on that society?

Anonymous said...

Anna, comparing NZ to Myanmar is just silly. You'll never see progress if all you would aspire to is to compare this country to slums and war stricken countries. Look at Singapore and Malaysia and bear in mind that they are very young nations.