The challenge for Kiwis feeding their family on a low-income

What percentage of your income do you spend on food?  The latest research from Regional Public Health in Wellington reveals what low-income families need to spend to have a no-frills healthy diet.

A food shopping receipt

We live in a pretty awesome country.  One of the many things I love about New Zealand is that we usually treat each other as equals.  But increasingly, New Zealand is seeing a growing divide between rich and poor.  In fact, we have one of the most unequal societies in the developed world - that is, one of the biggest gaps between rich and poor.  Research shows that if we want a prosperous, safe and healthy New Zealand, this growing divide isn't good for anyone. 

The reality is that many New Zealanders are being left behind in the struggle to make ends meet.  And we're not talking about having the latest flat screen television, but being sure there's going to be healthy food on the table at night.  The official term is 'food insecurity', and a staggering two out of every five households in New Zealand fall into this category. 

For some people, it can be hard to understand why it is such a struggle to feed our families - after all that's what the welfare system is for.  A new report by Vicki Robinson at Regional Public Health in Wellington shows the reality.  A one-income family with two children living on the minimum wage needs to spend one-third of their net income to purchase a no-frills healthy diet.  For a similar family on the unemployment benefit, it costs more than half their net income to have a basic healthy diet.  Overall, families on a low income need to spend between 23-52% of net income and 43-89% once rent is deducted to purchase a ‘basic’ healthy diet.  So it is understandable that corners are cut with food when faced with trying to make ends meet.

On my part, I'd like to see every New Zealander have the opportunity to fulfil their lifetime - that is, to live a full, healthy and meaningful life.  That means that as a country we need to ensure every person can access the basics, including feeding their family the nutritious meals needed for a healthy life.  There are no easy fixes for food insecurity, but a range of potential solutions have been identified, and it's time for all of society, and most importantly the government, to take action.