Many of us do not realise just how important vegetable and fruit eating is to our health. In the Pacific, as with other parts of the world, lack of vegetable and fruit eating is a key factor in high rates of diabetes, obesity, and heart disease. This phenomena is known as an epidemic in non-communicable diseases (NCDs), and these diseases are a major cause of illness, suffering and death. Urbanisation, the growing popularity and availability of western diet, especially processed and sugary foods, sedentary lifestyles, and barriers to the growing and eating of vegetables and fruits, have all contributed to this situation. Increased consumption of vegetables and fruits plays a significant part in keeping Pacific people healthy.

Pacific institutions have made substantial efforts in the fight against non-communicable diseases by developing policy and programmes which aim to promote health eating among communities. Our research, funded by New Zealand AID and NZIPR Consortium, adopts a unique focus: that of collaborating with young Pacific entrepreneurs who are passionate about vegetable and fruit eating. Located in Fiji, the research places an emphasis on youth experiences with the local food system and the opportunities provided by digital platforms for supporting entrepreneurship. It aims to draw on valuable business examples in Fiji and New Zealand that promote vegetable and fruit eating. In addition, by connecting youth entrepreneurs with like-minded peers and mentors in New Zealand this will extend the conversation and contribute to a co-design and youth- led model of vegetable and fruit eating in the Pacific.

In September 2017 the project team undertook a scoping and relationship building (veiwekani) visit to Suva to meet with stakeholders and partners, University of the South Pacific (USP) and the Youth Enterprise Council. We found out about Fijian ethics processes and designed the recruitment stage of the research. The team also met with Apenisa Vodo, owner of “The Big Green Salad”, a local hot spot for fresh fruit and vegetable eating. Apenisa fuses local cuisine with European inspired dressings and provides customers with a choice of vegetables for every meal. As an international ex-Rugby sport star, he is enthusiastic about helping Fijians to eat a healthy diet.

Radilaite Cammock and Losi Sa'ulilo of the research team in Suva, September 2017

Radilaite Cammock and Losi Sa’ulilo of the research team in Suva, September 2017

 

The team also visited USP’s on-campus training restaurant ‘Pacific Fusion’, which draws on Pacific cuisine and principles of healthy eating for imaginative menus; bringing a great experience for students.

Include photo caption – Dr Cammock and Losi Sa’uLilo eating Pacific vegetables at Tappoo Mall, Suva

In 2018 the project, Healthy eating plus enterprise: A participatory approach to Pacific youth contributing to health goals and Sustainable Economic Development, will conduct action group work, mobile movie making, and individual or combined digital Talanoa to capture and highlight young entrepreneurs’ experiences and views on vegetable and fruit eating in Fiji. Later stages involve, presenting and evaluating youth initiatives (raicu lesu), and sharing and disseminating (veitokoni) the experiences of the research.

The research team comprises the principal investigator, Dr Cath Conn, the project manager, Dr Radilaite Cammock, research officers, Gloria Ofa Blake and Losi Sa’ULilo, digital and mobile expert, Laurent Antonczak, from Auckland University of Technology (AUT), School of Public Health and Psychosocial Studies, and Dr Philippa Smith, Culture and Society, internet expert. If you would like further information on the project, please contact Gloria.Blake@aut.ac.nz.

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