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Nats refuse to learn poverty lesson

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News that South Auckland schools are extending food programmes and scheduling lessons to take account of pupils' hunger will surprise only the National Party, says Labour's social welfare spokesperson Steve Maharey.

Mr Maharey was responding to a report in today's New Zealand Herald.

"This government has refused repeatedly to support research on poverty because it refuses to admit it exists.

"The news that Manukau schools supply 3000 meals a week to pupils, while the Salvation Army gives out record numbers of food parcels, only adds to the huge pile of evidence that poverty exists in New Zealand.

"The nutrition survey published by the Ministry of Health in August found that 14% of New Zealanders sometimes or often ran out of food for lack of money. Between 12% and 14% sometimes or often ate less for the same reason. Seven percent sometimes or often relied on others for food or money to buy it. Amongst Mäori and Pacific Islanders the percentages were consistently much higher.

"The NZ Network Against Food Poverty reported at the same time that up to one third of households in the lowest income areas do not have access to the variety of foods they need to remain healthy. This means children are often going without the nutrition they need to grow and develop properly.

"There is plenty of evidence that the basic problem is inadequate income. Housing costs are the biggest drain, which is why Labour in Government would return to income-related rents for low-income families in state houses.

"We would also direct Work and Income NZ to ensure all beneficiaries get their full entitlements, tailor income support more closely to people's needs and make food grants more widely available. Labour will acknowledge and confront poverty, not ignore it."

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