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Hungry Start to School Year for Many Kiwi Kids

Media release February 2, 2009


Hungry Start to School Year for Many Kiwi Kids

Today signals the first day back at school for Kiiwi kids but according to KidsCan StandTall Charitable Trust at least 12,000 of them will arrive with rumbling tummies and empty lunchboxes.

KidsCan StandTall Charitable Trust is a children’s charity dedicated to meeting the basic physical needs of financially disadvantaged children.

Already the charity feeds more than 8,500 children a week through its crisis “Food For Kids” programme which allows teachers in low decile schools to discreetly provide food for hungry children to help them learn.

The charity’s General Manager Julie Helson says there are a further 12,000 kids on the waiting list who are desperately in need of the food programme.

“I think in a country rich in food production resources like ours this is unacceptable. I’ve attended schools and made the mistake of thinking they had a preschool onsite – this wasn’t the case at all. Sadly these were primary school-aged children who hadn’t developed at a normal physical rate because of malnutrition.”

Helson says KidsCan StandTall wants to give New Zealand children the best possible foundation for learning. This means providing crisis food packs, raincoats to keep them dry and shoes to protect their feet through its various programmes.

Seventy five pallets of non-perishable food donated by Tasti, Watties, James Crisp and Natures Food were last week shipped to 96 participating schools from Kaitaia to Invercargill.

The principal of Auckland’s Waterview Primary School Brett Skeen says the “Food For Kids” programme has proved a valuable initiative for his students.

Skeen says the desperate behavior caused by a lack of food has significantly reduced in his school since the programme’s inception.

“The kids aren’t stealing one another’s lunches now because they’re no longer hungry . It’s reducing social issues and we’ve noticed higher concentration levels in the classroom.”

Helson says she’d like to see more schools and their students benefit from the
“Food For Kids” programme and is meeting with the Government next week to discuss how they can work together to help New Zealand children reach their full potential.

“Our programmes provide direct intervention which gets underprivileged kids to school and through school. Good nutrition is key in order to help children learn and grow and education is the foundation for a better future for them,” she says.

The Minister for Social Development & Employment and Youth Affairs, Hon Paula Bennett says she shares KidsCan’s goal of ensuring Kiwi children don’t miss out on food, clothing and a standard of living adequate for their health and well-being.

“Our kids are our future and deserve the best possible start in life. While that responsibility primarily lies with parents, the work that KidsCan does for those families who need a bit more help, is invaluable. It’s a great example of a community approach to a very real problem,” she says.

Over the past three years KidsCan StandTall Charitable Trust has provided 24,000 free adidas All Blacks raincoats and 4,000 pairs of shoes and distributed 240,000 items of food a year to disadvantaged Kiwi kids.

ENDS

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