Kai has always had an important role in traditional Māori society. Historically, traditional Māori diets saw Māori grow strong bodies and live healthy lives with less of the modern diseases such as diabetes. What we eat now is very different from that of our ancestors.
The arrival of the European and the urbanisation of Māori have drastically changed Māori eating habits over a relatively short time frame. Pre-European Māori kai was gathered from the bush, sea, rivers and lakes, and some root crops were cultivated. Birds, fish, shellfish, eels, vegetation, eggs and wild honey were gathered and prepared for eating. Obtaining food was a prized accomplishment and food was a symbol of hospitality and generosity. This symbolism is still relevant today.
The way food today is produced, manufactured, and marketed, along with changes to our lifestyles, have given us greater access to processed foods and less to more nutritious foods like fruit and vegetables. Our intake of fat, sugar and alcohol has also increased over the years.
It is never too late to turn things around and make healthy choices and get back to our traditional healthy way of eating. Your healthy choices could influence tamariki and mokopuna to make healthy choices too. Your hapū can lead the way and work together to create a healthy community, starting right at the heart of it all, the marae.