New ideas needed for low-income households as cost of food rises - social service provider

By Ashleigh McCaull RNZ

A social service provider wants to see more innovation from the government and the country's supermarket chains to help with the rising cost of food.

The latest Stats NZ figures show the cost of food is 6.6 percent higher in June compared to the same time last year.

Food prices have had their biggest monthly rise in five months driven by more expensive fruit and vegetables.

The Māori Food Network made up of 16 providers supports 38,000 households across Tāmaki Makaurau.

Te Puea Memorial Marae chair Hurimoana Dennis said that there needed to be more ways to help those who were struggling.

"I want the government and others to be more innovative about what food looks like and where it actually comes from, taking it outside of the normal processing, like the [supermarket] duopoly for instance.

"We're looking at some stuff that goes well beyond food banks, well beyond food vouchers, well beyond kai packs. We are over that type of thinking and response to food, its deficit. That is not mana enhancing," Dennis said.

In the latest figures grocery food prices increased by 7.6 percent while meat, poultry, and fish prices rose by 6.8 percent.

Fruit and vegetable prices went up by 5.5 percent, making it harder for some families to eat healthy food.

Dennis said more expensive kai meant more whānau were having to leave more food items off their shopping lists.

"There are some things that used to be on the shopping list but aren't there now, for instance, meat if you like it's been quite expensive; fresh fruit and veggies as well.

"So some of the more homegrown stuff they're just not able to put on their menu so that the alternative is processed food."

Dennis has also noticed a steady increase of whānau using the network's services due to inflation.

"It almost mimics currently the impact that Covid-19 is having on people having to now start to self isolate, which really has been a huge impact across all of our services."

He said the introduction of the Grocery Commissioner will be helpful in holding the supermarket duopoly accountable.

"There's been no one there keeping them in check. So foods that should not have been costing so much, or the availability etc, has been unchecked... Someone now who can monitor that sector, will go a long way in making sure that these big duopolies don't get ahead of themselves."