The World Health Organization defines food security as existing when:

"All people at all times have access to sufficient, safe, and nutritious food to maintain a healthy and active life".

In this section of the website, you are invited to:

  • Learn more about our food system and how it influences our health.
  • Access the latest local data, news and event information.
  • Join the food movement by getting involved in existing projects or starting your own.

For Local Government, there is also a section designed to support you in promoting healthy food access.

What is food security?

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The World Health Organization defines food security as existing when:

"All people at all times have access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food to maintain a healthy and active life”

Food security is built on four pillars:

  1. Food availability: sufficient quantities of food available on a consistent basis.
  2. Food access: having sufficient resources to obtain appropriate foods for a nutritious diet.
  3. Food use: appropriate use based on knowledge of basic nutrition and care, as well as adequate water and sanitation.
  4. Food stability: stable access to foods at all times, without the risk of running out of food. 

Food security exists when there is a reliable supply and people have access to healthy foods that are culturally acceptable, nutritiously adequate, affordable and safe. The definition is also moving towards inclusion of sustainable production methods.

Why improve food security?

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Toi Te Ora Public Health is committed to improving and protecting the health of the communities in the Bay of Plenty and Lakes districts.

Food insecurity is associated with increased food-related chronic diseases. These diseases (such as obesity, diabetes, heart disease and some cancers) are affecting individuals lives and putting pressure on our health care system.

Collectively, unhealthy food and excess energy intake account for 11.4% of overall health loss in New Zealand. Toi Te Ora recognises the benefits of investing early in the lifecycle to support healthy behaviours and prevent ill-health.

Also refer to the research section, which shows that food insecurity is a barrier to healthy eating in our region. 

What determines what we eat and drink?

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How do our surroundings influence what we eat?

Our food and drink choices are shaped by the complex world in which we live —

  • By the kinds of food we have available at home.
  • By how far we live from the nearest supermarket or fast food restaurant.
  • By the ways that governments and authorities develop relevant policies.

In New Zealand, and many parts of the world, the ‘food environment’ — the physical and social surroundings that influence what we eat — makes it far too hard to choose healthy foods, and all too easy to choose unhealthy foods.

Some even call this food environment “toxic” because of the way it corrodes healthy lifestyles and promotes obesity



What is Toi Te Ora doing to promote food security?

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See further below or follow the link for more information on each of the following actions:

Food policy councils

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Collaborating for healthy food access

Toi Te Ora Public Health is committed to working locally with authorities, community groups, organisations, local businesses and local iwi to make healthy food choices the most accessible and easiest choice across our region.

Toi Te Ora aims to support local food groups or networks (known internationally as local food policy councils).

What is a local food group, network or a 'Food Policy Council'?

A local food group, network or a food policy council is an organised group of people working collaboratively to build a healthy local food system.

Such a network ideally includes stakeholders from across the food system and representation from a wide range of sectors including government, health and environmental sustainability. 

While food policy councils are the formal name, such groups are typically named by the local community and may be known more commonly as food networks, food coalitions or food alliances. Examples include Kai Auckland, Food Fairness Illawarra or the Toronto Food Policy Council.  


A local food groups across the Bay of Plenty

Kai Rotorua (formally the Rotorua Local Food Network) was established in 2016.  You can look at their website Kai Rotorua: Reconnecting us to Papatūānuku through kai  or the Kai Rotorua Facebook page. Toi Te Ora partnered with Healthy Families NZ - Rotorua and Rotorua Lakes Council to build this network. The network now has multiple members and has had some successes already, including the establishment of the Rotorua farmers market. As a group, Kai Rotorua plan to work towards:

  • A local, sustainable food system

  • Food education for our community (nutrition, cooking, gardening)

  • Reducing food waste

  • A food hub

  • Food sovereignty


More information

To learn more about this project, follow the link to the project summary.

Alternatively, please contact us to get involved, find out more and join the mailing list.    

Food security research

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Data Summary

This data summary provides an overview of available related statistics and research. Both national data and local data for the Bay of Plenty and Lakes District Health Boards districts have been included.


Toi Te Ora Public Health research

Foodback Project

Toi Te Ora Public Health is supporting Auckland University research, the Foodback project. Foodback involves the development of a smartphone app for crowdsourcing data on the healthiness of foods advertised and sold in local community settings (i.e., schools, hospitals, supermarkets, takeaways, sport clubs) and outdoors (i.e., around schools).


Population Health Survey 2020

The Issues of Health and Wellbeing 2020 Population Survey aims to increase our understanding of local people's knowledge, attitudes and practices related to a number of public health issues. Key results relating to are found in the full report available following the link.


Food Cost Surveys - preliminary results received

The annual University of Otago Food Cost Survey has been monitoring the cost and affordability of food across New Zealand since the 1970’s. the 2016 report is available here.

In 2015, for the first time, data was collected across the Bay of Plenty and Lakes District Health Board areas, as part of Toi Te Ora's commitment to improving access to healthy food.

Monitoring the cost of food is important as cost is a significant factor influencing food choice and purchasing.

Preliminary results are now available here. A full report unpacking these research findings will be available soon.

Food Security Literature Review 2013

In 2010 Toi Te Ora completed a literature review of published papers related to food security. This led to the identification of key themes and the development of a plan for Toi Te Ora to lead, advocate and support improvements to food security. The literature review was updated in 2013.


Food Outlet Mapping 2004

As part of a broader study, Alcohol, Gambling and Fast Food Outlets in the Bay of Plenty and Lakes Region, unhealthy food outlet locations were analysed.

Food security advocacy

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What is advocacy?

Advocacy is the deliberate process, based on demonstrated evidence, to directly and indirectly influence decision makers, stakeholders and relevant audiences.

Healthy public policy

Toi Te Ora Public Health employs a team of people who support and advocate to local government to develop healthy public policy across the Bay of Plenty and Lakes District Health Board regions. 

Food Security advocacy

One example in relation to where policy change has been achieved as a result of advocacy was in Tauranga City Council’s Vegetation and Tree Management Policy. For more information, follow the link to a related news article.

Support available

If you are advocating in relation to a issue, we may be able to assist, please contact us. We encourage you to make use of our Food Security Position Statement, Food Security Data Summary and Food Security Toolkit.


Community groups working to improve food security

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Right across New Zealand (and across the globe) people are collaborating to promote healthy food access, create sustainable and fair food systems, supporting local food economies.

For your interest, a few examples are provided below, including links for more information and useful documents.

Restoring New Zealand’s Food System

  • Restoring New Zealand's Food System is a Sustainable Business Network project
  • The Sustainable Business Network is trying to help find solutions to the challenges in the food system, from production, manufacturing, distribution, access and eating through to waste. 

Kai Rotorua

Kai Auckland

Edible Canterbury

Edible Wellington

Dunedin's Food Network

Our Food Network is based in Dunedin, and it's aim is to stimulate the production, distribution and consumption of local food and in that way contribute to the building of a resilient and prosperous community.

Build your own maara kai vegetable garden

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If you have issues viewing the video above, please view the video here instead.

Have you ever thought about growing some of your own kai?  It can be a fun, active, and affordable way to feed your whānau, with all the added benefits of healthy produce free of sprays and additives like sugar, fat and salt.

This video and step by step guide shows you how to build your own thriving no-dig vegetable garden, or ‘maara kai’.  A maara kai is a great way to live off the land and use traditional self-sufficiency. 

The maara kai vegetable garden in this video was built at Toroa Marae (Pupuaruhe) in Whakatāne. Use it as a guide when building your own maara kai at your marae, home, school, workplace, or when contributing to a local community garden.

For more information about building a maara kai, email

For information regarding community gardens in your local area, contact your local district council.

Food security enquiries

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For all enquiries in relation to this section of our website: 

Bay of Plenty and Lakes Districts
Freephone: 0800 221 555