Pizza in schools: a policy nirvana?

We were intending to publish this article at the beginning of April, but COVID-19 interrupted our plans.

At Infometrics we are often amazed, even annoyed, at ill-considered policy proposals that are targeted at solving a single issue, without recognising the law of unintended consequences – both positive and negative.

For example, some electric vehicles are less safe than otherwise equivalent petrol vehicles, so a policy to reduce carbon emissions could lead to more deaths and serious injuries on the road. Increasing electric vehicle numbers while ignoring the safety risks would seem to be blinkered thinking, and so policy analysis always needs a broader perspective.

Consider another example:

Joining the dots?

Over recent years the New Zealand economy and society has been blighted by a number of serious issues. Those issues that have caught our attention include young children turning up at school hungry, with consequences not only for their immediate learning, but also for their long-term ability to contribute to, participate in, and benefit from the wider economy.

Now one might argue that one of the reasons for this situation is that New Zealand is simply not rich enough to deliver an adequate level of prosperity for all, which in turn is related to an inefficient mix of industries – we produce too much of the wrong stuff. Most notably, the dairy industry has failed to markedly increase the value-added proportion of its exports. And as the dairy industry struggles with trying to sell too much milk (even after giving some away to schools) growers of hot house tomatoes face the prospect of massively increased heating costs for their hot houses due to the effect of the rising price of carbon emissions on the cost of coal.

Time for some pizza… sorry, I mean policy

Our policy proposal, therefore, after much analysis and debate, is to introduce free pizzas in schools – a single straightforward initiative with multiple benefits. Children will be better fed, their learning and behaviour will improve, teachers will be less stressed, and the long-term productivity of the workforce will be much enhanced. For the dairy industry, cheese is more valuable than milk, so value-added is up. Tomato growers will have a reliable market that pays a fair price. Even the wheat industry should benefit.

But the benefits do not end there. Many schools already have gardens that are cared for by students, along with associated cooking and food presentation programmes. These could easily be expanded, growing healthy pizza toppings such as herbs, kale and Brussel sprouts (provided of course that they don’t dominate the cheese flavour). More and larger garden-to-table programmes would also help instil a greater appreciation of the environment, sustainable agriculture, efficient use of water, and the importance of lowering carbon emission through less use of food that’s travelled long distances. 

A tasty meal, and an appetising policy

It seems that providing free pizza would be a policy nirvana, able to address multiple issues all at once. And as a study from the University of Bath shows, the human body “reacts ‘remarkably well’ to overeating pizza”, which is reassuring.

Having done all this policy development and seeing how many benefits we can count up is hungry work, so we’re off to grab a slice. It seems like the obvious thing to do.

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