Aotearoa's Food Environment Dashboard

Effective government policies and actions across sectors are essential to increase the healthiness of food environments and to reduce obesity, diet-related non-communicable diseases, and their related inequalities.

Key Findings

In 2020 Aotearoa’s third Healthy Food Environment Policy Index (Food-EPI) was conducted with an Expert Panel of over fifty independent and government public health experts. The Food-EPI assesses the Government’s level of implementation of policies and infrastructure support for improving the healthiness of food environments against international best practice. In 2020, the policy implementation progress the government had made since the 2014 and 2017 analyses was assessed.  

In 2020, New Zealand rated well against international best practice on a small number of infrastructure support indicators including: 

  • Having policies and procedures in place for ensuring transparency in the development of food policies 
  • The public having access to nutrition information and key documents 
  • Regular monitoring of population body mass index (BMI) the prevalence of NCD risk factors and occurrence rates for the main diet-related NCDs and monitoring progress towards reducing health-related inequalities 

Overall, however, the government has made minimal progress compared to international best practice over the last nine years. Major implementation gaps (‘very little, if any’ or ‘low’ implementation) were identified for: 

  • Food environment policies, especially for healthy food policies in schools 
  • Fiscal policies to support healthy food choices 
  • Implementing restrictions on unhealthy food marketing to children  
  • Supporting communities to limit the density of unhealthy food outlets in their communities (for example, around schools)  
  • Introducing food composition targets/standards in out of home settings 
  • Ensuring that trade and investment agreements do not negatively affect population nutrition and health 

Recent progress since 2020 Report

  • Changes have been made to the Health Star Rating algorithm in response to recommendations from the 5-year review.
  • Ka Ora, Ka Ako | Healthy School Lunches programme was expanded in 2020 to include around 214,000 students, including secondary students, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and stress on families. 
  • Methods have been developed for the National Nutrition Survey. 
  • Healthy Active Learning, a partnership between the Ministry of Education and Sport NZ to improve child and youth wellbeing through healthy eating and quality physical activity, was rolled out between 2020-2022 with approximately 300 primary schools, intermediate schools and kura in these regions, before engaging with a further 500 from 2022-2024.

Key Recommendations

High priority recommended policy actions for the New Zealand government from the 2020 assessment include:  


Marketing to children: The Government should introduce regulations to restrict unhealthy food and beverage marketing to children up to 18 years old through broadcast media (during peak TV viewing times), non-broadcast media (including food packaging, sport sponsorship and digital media) and in children’s settings, using the WHO nutrient profiling models, tailored to the NZ context.  


Sugary drinks industry levy: The Government should introduce a tiered industry levy of at least 20% on sugary drinks and recycle the revenue for programmes to improve public health and wellbeing.  

Income support: The Government should support low-income households so they can afford a healthy diet. 


Food composition targets: The Government should adopt a two-tier system for reducing sodium and added sugar in key food categories: 1) Setting mandatory maximum levels that reduce over time; and 2) setting and monitoring targets for voluntary reductions in sales-weighted averages.  


School food policies: The Government should require and support schools and early childhood education services to develop food policies which ensure healthy foods are provided and promoted.  

Public sector healthy food: The Government should apply the Healthy Food and Drink Policy it developed for the health sector across the whole government sector.  


Mandatory Health Star Rating (HSR): The Government should make the HSR mandatory.  


Zoning laws: The Government should enact zoning legislation to allow and encourage local governments to create healthy community food environments (including school healthy food zones, community gardens and reduced concentrations of unhealthy food outlets).  

For more information


Mackay, Sally; Sing, Fiona; Gerritsen, Sarah; Swinburn, Boyd (2020): Food-EPI 2020 Benchmarking NZ Food Environments. Summary & Full Report. The University of Auckland.

Food-EPI 2017 Full Report and Scorecard.

Food-EPI 2014 Full Report, Executive Summary & Scorecard.

Indicator Assessment Criteria