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.

Our research objectives are to:

Support youth entrepreneurs in undertaking an analysis of the opportunities and barriers to developing vegetable and fruit based enterprises, with an emphasis on their experiences and ideas and the local food system. Drawing on valuable business examples that promote healthy eating and that incorporate digital media platforms will be a key component of this analysis. To contextualise the research team will also conduct a Critical Policy Review on vegetable and fruit eating and the role of youth enterprise in the context of the Pacific food system.

Guide youth entrepreneurs in the co-design and implementation of 2-3 prototype actions of their choice through workshops and digital training e.g, setting up an e-portfolio, mobile social media. These actions will take the form of either individual or combined digital stories highlighting their experiences and opinions – captured through mobile moviemaking – that are interwoven with information about healthy eating and the food industry in Fiji and the Pacific. Connecting businesses with a mentor in Fiji and/or New Zealand will be supported as part of this process.

Assist youth entrepreneurs in evaluating their prototypes (such as a market garden initiative, or a website depending on youth suggested strategies) and making recommendations based on the project for fostering vegetable and fruit eating enterprises in Fiji and the Pacific. The digital dissemination of actions and outputs will benefit the wider community.  We would envisage that youth will themselves express the value of healthy eating, what they like about it, what they value, and sharing that through social media.

Develop a model of youth-led support for vegetable and fruit eating entrepreneurship in the Pacific. The model of youth led support would be similar to this project; that is, based on a participatory and design thinking model. Because it is youth led, supported by those with expertise in participation, it may lend itself to different contexts in the Pacific region.

To know more about the Project team, please click HERE

An New Zealand Institute for Pacific Research (NZIPR) and Auckland University of Technology (AUT), in collaboration with the Ministry of Foreigner Affairs and Trade (MFAT) and the Pacific Media Centre (PCM).