Something For Lunch. Too Much To Ask For Kiwi Kids?Fri 23 Jan 2015
Story by Metiria Turei
This post represents the views of the Green Party of New Zealand. While the Jamie Oliver Food Foundation supports no political party in any country in the world we will always acknowledge good initiatives such as the one outlined here.
New Zealand is known as a country of abundance, a land quite literally flowing with milk and honey.
But while our green pastures produce so much food for the rest of the world (weíre the worldís biggest dairy exporter and have the third most valuable honey exports) our own children are increasingly going without.
Iíve watched with interest the campaign for a food revolution in UK schools because, while campaigners like Jamie Oliver work on improving the quality of food their kids eat, in New Zealand weíre battling to ensure our kids get any food at school at all.
New Zealand children are expected to bring their own food to school. There is no national school lunch programme here.
By and large most kids bring a lunchbox full of food from home, but over the past 25 years, with New Zealand at the sharp end of the trend for growing inequality within developed nations, weíre seeing more and more children coming to school hungry every day.
Itís got to the stage where up to 20 percent of kids in our poorer communities bring no lunch to school at all.
You can imagine what this means for their education. Children are too hungry and lethargic to learn. As a consequence, children from poorer communities are falling further and further behind unable to grasp the opportunities offered by a good education to escape their poverty.
They are stuck being poor.
With the backing of around 30 community and professional organisations, Iím trying to change that with a new law. My Feed the Kids Bill will get state-funded, healthy breakfasts and lunches into all schools in our least well off communities.
At the moment, weíre focussing our efforts on getting the Bill past the first of three stages in our Parliament needed for a Bill to become law.
If the Bill is passed at this first stage, a committee of MPs will hear from schools and experts about the best way of delivering food in schools so we can re draft the best Bill possible.
The way the numbers stack up my Bill is likely to be voted down at this crucial first stage in February unless the governing National Party can be persuaded to support it.
Recently, the Government joined with a charity and local businesses to fund a casual breakfast programme in schools that want it. They say that is enough.
I say, itís a start. But it doesnít go nearly far enough towards meeting the extent of the need.
Not all schools are participating in the programme, many kids donít get to school early enough to participate, and it still leaves thousands of children going the whole day without lunch.
Thankfully, New Zealanders are a caring bunch and the momentum is building behind the campaign for a long term, healthier and sustainable solution for feeding our children.
Itís true that many children without lunch are given something to eat at school, often through the generosity of individual teachers, or with help from charity programmes that are increasingly working in our schools. But this often means simply a jam sandwich.
And while something is better than nothing, we in the Green Party think our kiwi kids deserve more: A reliable, sustainable, programme providing healthy food for children who need it in New Zealand schools.
You can help me achieve this by emailing New Zealandís Prime Minister and National Party leader, John Key, asking that the National Party supports my Feed the Kids Bill at least for the First Reading vote.
More information about the Feed the Kids campaign can be found here.
About the author: Metiria Turei is Co-leader of the Green Party in New Zealand, which holds 10 percent of seats in Parliament, and she is the Partyís spokesperson on child poverty. Her passion is building a more equitable society; reducing unemployment, and ending child poverty. She is currently sponsoring the Feed the Kids Bill in New Zealandís Parliament.
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