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Manaaki at Mahi - the HPA's kai guidelines

As the New Zealand Government’s lead organisation in public health promotion, the Health Promotion Agency/Te Hiringa Hauora (HPA) wants to lead the way in how it provides healthy food and drink to its employees and visitors.

The guidelines make it easy for HPA people to select healthy food and drink when catering within the organisation, or liaising with other companies catering at HPA-supported events.

The aim was to create a set of easy-to-follow guidelines and factsheets that make it easy for staff to order healthy items when using HPA money to buy food and drink for work events. To keep things clear and simple, a set of frequently asked questions and answers has been developed to support staff, along with a simple form to order catering.

Why introduce healthy food and drink guidelines?

“It’s about supporting the health and wellbeing of our people,” says Lucy Hickman, General Manager Corporate Services at HPA.

“As the HPA we must lead from the front, but any organisation can support its people to eat and drink in a way that supports their wellbeing. In the modern work environment, health and safety goes well beyond slips, trips and falls – it’s about supporting physical and mental health too.”


Working on the kaupapa that providing healthy and nutritious food demonstrates the value a workplace puts on its people and supporting their physical and mental wellbeing, a cross-organisation group developed healthy food and drink guidelines for HPA employees.

Lucy says having food and drink guidelines makes people think about what they’re ordering. “We all know what’s healthy, but it can be easy to default to cakes and sausage rolls. Having catering guidelines makes it easier to order healthier options, and to include people with cultural or health-related dietary requirements.”

How was it organised?

The project group included representatives from office services, the nutrition and workplace teams, procurement and marketing.

“We had wanted to create guidelines for some time and had been using the Ministry of Health’s Food and Drink Policy for Organisations but it hadn’t really embedded,” says Donna Harding, HPA’s Office Services Manager. “Within a month we had two Wellington catering companies keen to work with us on creating workable healthy menus.”

Amanda Wynne, HPA’s Principal Advisor for Nutrition and Physical Activity liaised with the catering companies (Wellington Catering Ltd and Dusted & Delicious) and Judith Morley John, the Food Industry Nutritionist from the Heart Foundation, provided advice and support to ensure foods offered on the menus were appropriate. Then, with the companies, the group developed a green, amber and red matrix to make ordering easy. The matrix works by sorting common foods into categories: green for ‘order lots of’ foods; amber for ‘a few of’ foods; and red for ‘none (or very few) of these’.

Donna assembled her team, responsible for most of HPA’s catering, and asked them to use these menus, following the matrix (excluding all food in the red column), whenever they catered for the next month. 

After the month’s trial, Donna and her team discussed how they had found using the guidelines and what reception the new offerings had received from staff.

“The feedback was really positive,” says Donna. “They said it was easy using the menus and there was very little pushback from staff or external people invited into HPA.”

The guidelines in action

Most of the catering HPA staff do is for small group meetings at its offices on The Terrace. “For these we mostly go to the supermarket and pick up some cheese, crackers and fruit. We may also buy fruit and bran muffins, which we cut in half,” says Donna. She did cater for one large conference, working with the venue’s event organisers to swap out the red items on their set menu, which they were happy to do.

HPA’s procurement team is also working on adding a clause to the contract templates to encourage the provision of healthy food at HPA-supported events, such as including only ‘green’ and ‘amber’ foods.

What’s not in scope?

The food HPA staff bring into work – either in their lunchboxes or for their group morning and afternoon teas – is beyond the guidelines’ scope. “All we’re doing is educating people about healthy options so they can make their own decisions,” says Lucy.

“We want to show people how to have a healthy diet that is wide and varied.”

How did you engage/communicate with staff?

After the trial, an article was published on HPA’s intranet, The Hub. “We made the article really positive, talking about what’s in scope and out of scope, and the reasons why we are doing it,” says Donna. “In all our communications we have emphasised we are only concerned when it’s HPA buying food with HPA budget.”

What’s next?

The team creating the guidelines are keen to add to the number of menus on offer to staff, so are continuing to work with catering companies to prepare healthy menus.

The HPA's key learning points:

  • Keep it simple – the less thought or hassle for the person who’s doing the ordering, the better.
  • Do your homework about your workplace, and how it involves food and drink, before you start – make gradual changes and introduce them slowly in way that’s appropriate for your workplace.
  • Use the supermarkets for budget-friendly healthy options – but shop around for those that offer the healthiest selections.
  • Emphasise it’s not about policing lunchboxes – people can definitely still bring in what they want to eat for lunch or shared morning or afternoon teas.

See below for some resources the HPA is using within its organisation, and see the Manaaki at Mahi resource page

If you would like more information about the HPA's healthy kai guidelines, email Amanda

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