Keeping kids healthy

Spotted this story over on AdelaideNow. What I found interesting was the mention of replacing part of the Baby Bonus and welfare payments with fish, meat, milk, spring water and fruit and vegetable vouchers.

Nice in theory, but how do you enforce it? Nobody in this house (well, except Aisha and the cat) likes fish, no matter how healthy they say it is, so I'd be very annoyed to lose money I could spend on food we'd actually eat and just get a useless voucher for frozen fish at the local butcher. Same with spring water - why waste money on a bottle of spring water when perfectly good, clean water falls from the sky and is collected in my rainwater tanks?

There's also the issue of getting all shops to accept the vouchers if the idea does become mainstream, remembering that not everyone shops at a supermarket or greengrocer. Some people go down to grower's markets to buy fresh produce, or grow their own food so they don't need vouchers for vegetables at all and will then end up with less money to spend on other things under a voucher system. Extending this idea, can private individuals accept vouchers for vegetables? I have friends with a hobby farm who grow lots of vegetables for sale, last time I checked they only accepted cash for crops.

I'm certainly in favour of another idea that was proposed to make sure that welfare payments first go on rent/mortgage, utilities bills and groceries before they disappear into the pokies or get spent on cigarettes and alcohol, but I wouldn't go as far as telling people what to spend their grocery money on. This kind of system can already be partly put in place for people who have a record of defaulting on bills and rent, with money for bills and rent deducted from their payments and only the remainder paid directly.

Dictating where the baby bonus goes has also come up as a suggestion before, but is more problematic. $4000 is a lot of money, and people do a lot of different things with it depending on their needs, ranging from buying their child a share portfolio to buying the latest pram and high chair. Replacing the baby bonus with a voucher for baby accessories might advantage people with a first child (and the stores that sell baby gear), but disadvantages people who already have hand-me-down baby things or have bought second-hand from eBay or friends. Personally I'm buying rainwater tanks with my bonus so I have more water to wash the baby in, and if I had to spend it on food or baby gear instead I'd be waiting a lot longer to save for those essential tanks, risking running out of fresh water the whole time. I've already got all the baby things I need, sitting in the cupboard.

In short, any attempt to dictate what people eat and drink and how they spend their money by using a voucher system instead of simply educating them about healthy eating and good spending habits is bound to either fail, or disadvantage some fraction of the population on welfare.