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.
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 the care of the elderly, the food industry and medical practitioners.
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, YouTube and Snapchat
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. A 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.
Inspired by our work with Senior Chef, the NZNF developed a JUST COOK Healthy Ageing, a 4-week programme cooking and nutrition programme which focuses on building cooking skills, motivation and confidence to cook and increasing nutrition knowledge and understanding associated with healthy ageing. Evaluations indicate that participants benefit from the social interaction, improved nutrition knowledge and confidence/ motivation to cook. Since then, JUT COOK Healthy Ageing has travelled all around Auckland and has even made its way to Rotorua and Nelson.
In terms of web resources, our Age Well Eat Well website provides older people reliable advice on nutrition, physical activity and other topics to promote their health and wellbeing.
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. Over time, the focus and need changed as we formed partnerships with organisations that were better placed to reach the people most in need.
In 2016, JUST COOK expanded to encompass tailored cooking and nutrition programmes JUST COOK Tika Tunu. It was initially an eight-week cooking and nutrition programme for groups such as wahine and tane in prison, women referred through Family Action, and Pasifika participants referred through GFit. It was then condensed into a four-week programme, but retained its focus on making healthy, affordable food choices, improving skills, motivation and confidence in family cooking.
Since then, our reach has extended across different regions and communities in NZ. Our Tika Tunu programme has travelled areas including Warkworth, Auckland, Rotorua and Te Urewera. The New Zealand Nutrition Foundation has supported Mahitahi Hauora to extend its work to deliver hands-on cooking programmes to vulnerable groups in Northland. We aim to adapt our programmes to the needs of the community. For example, in Rotorua, the Healthy Ageing and Tika Tunu programmes have morphed to reflect the multigenerational demographics of the community. This combined programme, available for any age group, is named Oranga Kai and is and reflects the need of the community.
Our focus remains JUST COOK programmes and planning future programmes. While COVID did throw a spanner in the works, our programmes are slowly but surely getting back into the community. We continue to share evidence-based nutrition information whether that is through our website, our online mailers or our social media networks. Our work with corporate partners is also ongoing.
Last modified: June 20, 2022