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Greens call for fresh fruit in all primary schools

8 February 2007

Greens call for fresh fruit in all primary schools

The Green Party is calling for the Free Fruit in Schools programme to be extended to all primary schools in New Zealand, and for the Government to make available free, healthy breakfasts in all schools, Green Party Health Spokesperson Sue Kedgley says.

Currently only 268 of the 2,662 schools that have children of primary school age on their rolls have access to the Fruit in Schools programme.

"If thousands of children are going to school hungry every day, this will adversely affect their health and well being, as well as their ability to learn. Hungry children won't be able to concentrate and learn properly, and chronically hungry children inevitably develop nutritional deficiencies and health problems, " Ms Kedgley says.

"That's why most developed nations offer free lunches in schools, and it is a tragedy that we don't have that programme here. The cost would be miniscule, compared to the health and education benefits," Ms Kedgley says.

"In 2005, a Child Poverty Action Group report estimated that it would cost only $25 million to make a free breakfast programme available to every child at decile one and two schools. This is considerably less than the $33 million that the Government has donated to the America's Cup campaign," Greens' Social Development Spokesperson Sue Bradford says.

"We seem to care less about eliminating hunger among New Zealand children than we do about yacht races. A free breakfast programme in decile one and two schools would provide a comprehensive safety net for the New Zealand children in most urgent need. In time, it could serve as a platform for making food assistance available in all New Zealand schools.

"Hunger is a consequence of poverty, and cannot be addressed simply by giving advice on healthy eating. Children also need to be able to eat adequately at home, so any serious response to the hunger situation in schools must be accompanied by improvements in the income of the lowest income groups in society," Ms Bradford says.

"The Fruit in Schools programme is widely acknowledged to be a huge success. Yet it is being offered only in a limited number of schools. It is now time for the Government to extend the programme to all primary schools, and to start putting its financial resources into providing a free healthy breakfast programme as well," Ms Kedgley says.

ENDS

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