Hundreds of thousands of New Zealanders would receive taxpayer subsidies to buy healthy foods under a new system proposed in research commissioned by the Ministry of Health.

Health economist Des O'Dea and colleagues have suggested the Government set up a smart-card electronic subsidy system that would be similar to the food stamps now given to low-income families in the United States on an electronic debit card.

It would be aimed at reducing "food insecurity" and encouraging consumption of healthy foods in low- and middle-income families with children to reduce New Zealand's internationally high rate of obesity.

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