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Harawira: Speech to Community Coalition for Food in Schools

Harawira: Speech to Community Coalition for Food in Schools

Hone Harawira, MANA leader and MP for Te Tai Tokerau
Wednesday 5 March 2014

I would like to extend a big welcome to all members of the Community Coalition for Food in Schools; to acknowledge everyone’s involvement in the campaign to promote the kaupapa of food in schools, and to build support for MANA’s Feed the Kids Bill; and to give you all a sincere and heartfelt thank you for all you have done.

I’m hugely grateful for your support because it’s important that our communities hear from organisations and groups that they are part of and that they know and trust, and that people know that this is not just a policy issue for one political party but a kaupapa that has wide support.

And I really need to name many of the sectors and groups here … school and education groups: NZEI, PPTA, NZ Principals’ Federation, QPEC – the Quality Public Education Coalition; Te Rūnanga Nui o Ngā Kura Kaupapa Māori o Aotearoa, Tertiary Education Union – and the groups set up by students themselves, Choose Kids from Otago University, and Poverty Stoppers, a high school group from South Auckland; church groups: Anglican Action, Caritas Aotearoa NZ, the Methodist Church, and the Salvation Army; health organisations: Manaia and Te Tai Tokerau PHOs, the NZ Nurses Organisation, Plunket; the Royal NZ College of General Practitioners, and Te ORA, the Māori Medical Practitioners’ Association; poverty and children’s rights advocates: Auckland Action Against Poverty, Barnardos, Child Poverty Action Group, Every Child Counts, IHC, Save the Children, Poverty Action Waikato, and Unicef New Zealand; whanau advocates: CTU Rūnanga, Te Rōpū Wāhine Māori Toko i te Ora (Māori Women’s Welfare League), and Women’s Refuge; and of course, the world’s top kapa haka group Te Waka Huia!

And I’d like to especially acknowledge a few groups and individuals if I could: The Child Poverty Action Group who have long advocated for government-funded food programmes in low decile schools; in fact, the bill has been based on their 2011 research report, Hunger for Learning, by Donna Wynd. The Children’s Commissioner’s Expert Advisory Group on Solutions to Child Poverty’s 2012 report that recommended government-funded food programmes in low decile schools which gave significant credibility to the Feed the Kids Bill which had been drawn from the Members Bill ballot only the month before. Campbell Live for the excellent series they did on child poverty and food in schools. And of course, Deborah Morris-Travers formerly of Every Child Counts, and now Unicef New Zealand, for being the central pin in bringing the Community Coalition for Food in Schools together.

In 2011 a food in schools programme wasn’t even on the political radar, but as a result of the campaign that we have all been a part of, only a month or so after the launch of our Otara Big Breakfast in April last year a TV3 poll showed that 70% of NZers supported government-funded food programmes in low decile schools. Food in Schools also made the Top 10 News Stories of 2013. And everywhere I go, whenever I mention Feed the Kids, everybody understands exactly what I am talking about.

That’s because food in schools is a simple, do-able, and cheap way to help enhance the health, wellbeing and learning development of our most vulnerable kids.

And with Treasury confirming that the number of children living in poverty has now reached epidemic levels, getting government to fund food programmes in low-decile schools is more important than ever.

That’s not to downplay the importance of initiatives like KickStart because every contribution helps, but the reality is that just over half of decile 1 and 2 schools are getting KickStart, not all kids in those schools are being fed, and those that do don’t get it every day. In fact our estimate is that KickStart is reaching just over 10% of those children going to school hungry every day.

That’s why we have to continue with our campaign, and why I can say now that after a number of delays and false starts, we expect the Feed the Kids Bill to come up for first reading next Wednesday evening (Weds 12 March). And ahead of that we’ve invited supporting parties – Labour, Greens, NZ First, Māori Party, and Independent MP Brendan Horan – to sign a Feed the Kids pledge to have this kaupapa re-tabled when there is a change of government.

But for now, my thanks to you all for coming, and let me open the floor for those organisations who I understand are also speaking today – Unicef, PPTA, NZEI, Salvation Army, Caritas Aotearoa NZ, Te Rūnanga Nui o Ngā Kura Kaupapa Maori o Aotearoa, and Katherine Rich from the Food and Grocery Council, and of course any others that want to speak.

END

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