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Community agencies collaborate with commercial sponsors to create a sugar-free Polyfest

NZ Population Health Congress Wednesday 08 October 2014, 03:20PM

Media release from the NZ Population Health Congress

Ngati Whatua health provider Te Ha Oranga and Maori public health organisation Hapai Te Hauora Tapui are successfully collaborating with one of the commercial sponsors of the Auckland Secondary Schools ASB Polyfest to reduce the amount of sugar on offer by food vendors at the festival.

“We have been working with SMC Event Management (Polyfest organisers), Frucor Beverages (exclusive beverage provider of the festival, and sponsor) and a range of other stall holders to achieve a sugar-free Polyfest,” Malina Parkinson told the NZ Population Health Congress in Auckland.

“It’s been about recognising we all have outcomes or baselines that we have to meet – so how can we merge our priorities and all get there together? The overall aim for the project is to create a healthy environment that is easy for festival-goers. We want to establish a food environment where making the right food choice is the easiest. At the same time we want to encourage stall holders to have confidence and pride in their traditional cultural kai.”

An estimated 90,000 people visit Polyfest every year where there is an abundance of high saturated fat, high salt and high sugar foods. This project developed a Kai Ora Policy, which aims to address the issue of healthy food and initiate discussions and initiatives which will rebalance the affordability, accessibility and attraction of healthier food and drinks.

“We felt something drastic had to happen to change the health status of our Maori and Pasifika people and the Polyfest provides a perfect opportunity to begin changing attitudes and behaviours about and towards food. There were some positive steps already being taken and we felt the festival was ready to push the norms and take steps to implement Frucors’ Social Responsibility policy.

“We gently encouraged SMC management that our outcomes were equally as important as the industry sponsors and that this festival is about fostering positive culture. So the Kai Ora policy was enforced and this year saw the first ‘Sugar free’ Maori stage.

“We also arranged the 'Hydro-Hub', an environmentally friendly, sustainable water station, situated down at the Maori stage. This was a great way for us to engage with young people throughout the festival. Hydro-Hub helped promote the sugar-free message and was an approachable vehicle for whanau, rangatahi and stall- holders to find out more about our kaupapa, and how we hoped to help enhance the kai environment of Polyfest.”

A post-festival evaluation revealed that support for the project was wide. Festival organisers were happy with how it was received and are committed to rolling the sugar-free kaupapa across all stages in 2015.

“Frucor was also supportive of the policy as they already supply a broad range of sugar free options and have since updated their Social Responsibility policy into a more approachable and easily implementable format.”

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