We asked the people vying for our votes how they’re keeping their minds sharp and bodies fuelled for the final stretch of the campaign marathon.
What New Zealand’s political party leaders eat isn’t usually something many of us give much thought to, but come election time, when they’re out and about winning votes, politicians’ kai is in the public eye.
Food is political, as we witnessed during Wednesday’s Newshub leaders’ debate, when moderator Paddy Gower asked Jacinda Ardern and Judith Collins how often they eat meat. Both said twice a week, then demurred when Gower clarified that fish counts as meat. When asked whether they thought New Zealanders should eat less meat for the good of the planet, both leaders’ answers – Ardern’s “eat New Zealand meat!” and Collins’ “I’m not a communist!” – showed how politically sensitive the issue is.
Tucker’s not always as controversial, of course – sometimes food simply provides a way for politicians to show they’re ordinary people and meet their constituents. Collins visited a farmers market in Napier yesterday, telling supporters via a Facebook video that she bought sourdough, coffee, cheese and olive oil. The Herald was there too, and reported that the women running the dumpling food truck were disappointed Collins wasn’t a customer, “so the National leader had to explain she would have indulged if it weren’t for the threat of a picture of her eating ending up in the press”.
Who can blame her, really, when you think of the photos of former National prime minister John Key tucking in that will exist forever on the internet and burnished into our brains.
But of course food is also just fuel, and it must be a bit rough at times – keeping crazy hours as you flit from town to town, event to event, and you can’t even sample a dumpling without fear of an unflattering snap ending up in the media. It’s enough to make anyone hangry.
On that note, we asked the leaders of Labour, National, Act, the Green Party and NZ First about their campaign diets. We received answers from all but Winston Peters, who we can only presume subsists on the odd cheeky dart and an occasional sip of apple juice.
Jacinda Ardern, Labour Party leader
My campaign diet is terrible. I go from being really earnest about having a healthy breakfast, to the campaign period where I just have coffee and a muesli bar (and when I say muesli bar, I mean hash brown). I carry food in my bag. None of it especially appealing, which is why I probably eat things like toasted sandwiches and pies more during a campaign than usual – I skip meals, end up hungry, and go for fast comfort food. I hope my mother doesn’t read this (she’s often the reason I have healthy snacks in my bag).
Kieran McAnulty [Wairarapa Labour list MP] almost lost his place in caucus when he neglected to stop at my favourite bakery in his electorate. I’m still miffed. But I recently visited The Golden Kiwi, the fish and chip shop in Morrinsville I worked at from when I was 14 years old until I left school, every single Friday night. They have a small restaurant. I had fish, chips, sausage, and a token salad. My old bosses Carol and Grant still run the show, and it was as good as I remember.
Judith Collins, National Party leader
Other than drinking a lot of tea and water, my diet hasn’t changed at all. I’m trying to eat healthily during the campaign, although occasionally I do indulge in a no-sugar cola and have even had a kombucha.
Marama Davidson, Green Party co-leader
My daily diet is sometimes terrible, and has included a dinner of a day-old muffin from a dairy because I had a very small window after a late night event to eat anything before I had to get to sleep for a 5.30am taxi. I do try to at least start off right, with my own homemade smoothie of greens and fruit and egg, but I don’t always get to pop that in, especially when travelling. I think in short, my campaign diet has “room to improve”. A petrol station pie is sadly a menu regular. The nights that I’m with whānau are normally the best – people who make food for me with aroha and care are the strongest part of campaign resilience. RJ’s raspberry chocolate twists are also a campaign trail winner for me, and New Plymouth Airport café saved my puku rumbles recently after hopping off a plane one morning without having had breakfast and about to head out on a full day.
James Shaw, Green Party co-leader
There is no pattern to my campaign diet – on any given day I’ll eat a healthy lunch prepared for me by Green Party volunteers between events, fish and chips at a pub round the corner from the next meet-the-candidates evening, anything in between, or nothing at all. I stopped by the Clareville Bakery outside of Carterton recently and had a steak and red wine pie. It was exceptional. But everything in the cabinet looked exceptional too. If I lived anywhere near there I’d die a death-by-baked-goods. And be happy about it.
David Seymour, Act Party leader
My campaign diet’s pretty bad – I’m down to 70kg. The two burgers – Wisconsin and Fuel – are fuelling my campaign. I regard that as a form of health food, given the quality of the vegetation on it. You get some really fresh lettuce on some of those burgers. And a lot of Red Bull.