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In 1980, a group of far-sighted,visionary business and medical professionals recognised the need for an organisation to educate New Zealanders on issues of nutrition. At the time, nutrition did not have a high public profile, but there was an increasing need to combat numerous misleading food and nutrition messages. The group included Sir John Scott (professor of medicine at the University of Auckland), Professor Cliff Tasman Jones (eminent gastroenterologist and nutritionist), Dick Jamieson (businessman), Sir Dove-Meyer Robinson (Auckland mayor), Wendy Brown (Weight Watchers) and two lawyers. Dr John Birkbeck was the first medical director. Thus, the New Zealand Nutrition Foundation was established as a charitable not-for-profit trust, with individual and corporate membership to support its activities.

Independent and credible

One of the strengths of the New Zealand Nutrition Foundation is its independence. Many people voluntarily contribute their time, experience and expertise to the activities of the Foundation. The Foundation enjoys a solid and credible reputation with a variety of audiences including the general public, food writers, health professionals, groups specialising in care of the elderly, the food industry and medical practitioners.

Innovative nutrition education

The Foundation has a strong track record in innovative nutrition education and health promotion programmes, and the wide range of food and nutrition services offered. The Foundation was one of the early providers of long-distance nutrition courses (papers via correspondence), developed by Dr John Birkbeck. These were designed for key professional groups, including pharmacists, nurses, sports professionals and teachers. As these courses grew they were sold to Massey University. More recent programmes have used a virtual supermarket, You Tube and Snapchat

High-profile nutrition campaigns

For consumers, the Foundation has run a number of high-profile nutrition campaigns. Allyson Gofton, the first CEO, introduced one of the most popular in 1991, Food Glorious Food. This was followed by Snack Wise (1992), Break into Breakfast (1993) and the very popular Breakfast Club (1994). To celebrate the International Year of the Family, the Building Healthy Families campaign also ran in 1994. Techno Food, a food and nutrition resource for intermediate and secondary schools, was launched in 1997, under the direction of Robyn Cameron, CEO from 1994 to 1998. Other highly successful campaigns followed, including Lunch for Life. A change in CEO in 1998 saw the appointment of Bronwen Anderson and the launch of Get going with breakfast, which introduced linkages with supermarkets, food companies, schools, and the media to promote the breakfast health message. This campaign ran for over five years.

Other initiatives have included the formation of the Older People’s Working Group in 2003 (later renamed the Committee for Healthy Ageing). This group became highly respected, providing education seminars involving a range of organisations, from the Government to public health and special interest groups. Review of our healthy ageing work in 2013 led to a change in direction with a focus on delivering programmes and services directly to community living older people. This has included developing and testing a website with food and nutrition information for healthy ageing and delivering a cooking programme, JUST COOK Healthy Ageing for older people with poor cooking skills.

Our flagship programme JUST COOK was launched in 2011 with a focus on encouraging more home cooking as a way of making healthy eating accessible and simple. JUST COOK has a community and youth programme and is built on partnerships with the food industry, community health workers and schools. In 2016 JUST COOK expanded to encompass our Healthy Ageing programme and Tika Tunu an eight-week programme for wahine and tane in prison.