A new concept in food environments, the food haven , developed by AUT researchers at the Child and Youth Health Research Centre, aims to reduce high obesity rates among Māori and Pacific peoples. · A strength-based approach, that incorporates …

Wednesday, 12 May 2021, 9:46 amPress Release: Auckland University of Technology
A new concept in food environments, the
food haven,
developed by AUT researchers at the Child and Youth Health
Research Centre, aims to reduce high obesity rates among
Mori and Pacific peoples.
· A
strength-based approach, that incorporates indigenous
knowledge and models what urgently needs to be done,
would be a more empowering and effective way to reduce
obesity among New Zealands most vulnerable groups,
according to a new AUT study.
· AUT researchers are
proposing a new term, the food haven, defined as a
space (V) or place (papakinga) where people have high
availability of healthy food that is culturally accessible,
convenient, affordable and desirable.
· This new
concept aims to challenge negative perceptions of people
living in low socioeconomic neighbourhoods by highlighting
good work already being done in the community to tackle
obesity, and empowering these communities to define and
drive positive change for themselves with the support of
local business and government.
Too many people are
overweight and eat unhealthy food. And its a problem that
falls disproportionately on those living in low
socioeconomic areas that are negatively impacted by food
deserts (with little access to healthy food and options
limited to cheaper, less nutritious, high-calorie food) and
food swamps (with an overabundance of fast food).
Young people are among those most affected by harmful food
The New Zealand Health Survey
shows that one in 10 children are obese and the prevalence
of obesity differs by ethnicity, with Pacific peoples (29
percent) and Mori (13 percent) being the
Children living in the most deprived
neighbourhoods are 2.7 times more likely to be obese,
compared to those living in the most affluent
Food environments shape what food we buy and
eat. They are the physical, social, economic, political and
cultural factors that impact the accessibility, availability
and adequacy of food within a community.
In order to
understand what constitutes a sustainable food environment
and, more importantly, what that might look like for people
living in New Zealands most deprived neighbourhoods, AUT
researchers conducted a literature review focusing on the
typology (types and symbolism) of food
The lead author of the study, Daysha
Tonumaipea (Te Arawa, Tainui, Ngti Hine), a PhD
candidate in International Business Strategy and
Entrepreneurship at the AUT
Business School and member of the Child and Youth Health
Research Centre, looks at indigenous experiences of
international investment and is involved in several health
research projects about sustainable food systems and food
Tonumaipea says, there has been
little to no success in reversing the obesity epidemic and a
new approach is needed.
The literature has tended
to focus on harmful food environments using negative
metaphors, like food deserts and food swamps, but positive
motifs can go further in creating whole sustainable food
environments, she says.
We need to focus on
modelling healthy food environments and consider the
complexities within distinct population groups.
elements from the food haven definition have been
drawn from indigenous knowledge, particularly Mori and
Pacific perspectives.

  • For Pacific peoples,
    space (V) refers to a space that is deeply
    relational that carries with it a collective
    responsibility, duty and care that can allow a healthy food
    environment to prosper and provide positive outcomes for all
    members of the community.
  • In Te Ao Mori, place
    (papakinga) is defined as a home base, village or
    communal land. It is a place where activities are purposeful
    in enhancing the spiritual, social, cultural and economic
    wellbeing of individuals as well as the group in order to
    sustain the community.

Tonumaipea says, with
traditional food environments there was always a central
place where Mori could attain wellbeing through cultural,
spiritual, and environmental means.
The food
haven incorporates a sense of hospitality and looks at
how we used to eat. It is less about telling Mori and
Pacific people this is what you ought to eat and more
about putting ownership back on our people because we
have our own solutions to these problems and can tap into
indigenous ways of being and thinking to enhance our
wellbeing, she says.
What were talking about
is a journey of wellbeing, not an overnight
Research co-author, Dr
Radilaite Cammock (Vuita, Fiji), is a lecturer in Public
Health at the AUT School of Public Health and
Interdisciplinary Studies. She is also a research associate
at the Child and Youth Health
Research Centre and Pacific Health
Research Centre, based at AUT
South Campus in Manukau.
Both researchers are
proud citizens of South Auckland.
A lot of people
come to South Auckland and tell us what our food environment
looks like, but not a lot of people care about what we are
already doing to improve the spaces and places where we
live. And most of the things we are doing are not being
captured or supported by the public sector, says
The food haven concept is about
capturing positive change that is happening in the community
and trying to attract the support of people who are making
decisions about where resources are going.
We need
academics, local business and government to consider the
food haven concept and come up with solutions, with
our community driving it. Our hope is that this concept will
start that conversation and bring people together to look at
all of the elements that influence the way people eat,
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