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NZ child nutrition results make appalling reading

Friday, 7 November 2003

Press release for immediate release

New Zealand child nutrition results make appalling reading

Government must not ignore a new report showing 22 percent of New Zealand children live in households that can't afford to eat properly, according to the Public Health Association.

The report commissioned by the Ministry of Health New Zealand Food: New Zealand Children also found children living in more deprived areas were less likely to have breakfast before leaving home in the morning.

PHA director Dr Gay Keating says the most alarming aspect of the new survey is that children are more likely than adults to go short of food. Dr Keating says the previous nutrition survey of adults (New Zealand Food. New Zealand People) in 1997 revealed 13 percent of households could not afford to eat properly.

"New Zealand has now reached a situation where nearly a quarter of families with children can't afford to eat properly. It is imperative that this report is not simply shelved, along with many of the other reports on child health."

Dr Keating says it is commendable that government agencies will use results from the latest survey to target public health promotions aimed at encouraging at-risk groups to eat breakfast. However she points out public health campaigns may not be that effective if families do not actually have food in the cupboards.

"We are getting increasing numbers of anecdotal reports from schools forced to feed their pupils. Many schools do not want to highlight this work for fear of embarrassing parents and creating even more demand for food assistance."

The Public Health Association is calling on Government to implement the comprehensive strategy to eliminate child poverty promised in the government's Agenda for Children.

Dr Keating says government has indicated it will assist low income families in the 2004 budget and the new nutrition report supports the need for this direction.

The PHA is also calling for immediate action, including giving significant relief to the poorest families, extending the Child Tax Credit to families and ensuring the special benefit is allocated to all eligible families.


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