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KidsCan statement on child poverty and hunger

Media Release
11/4/08

KidsCan statement in response to Associate Minister of Education’s comments on child poverty and hunger in NZ

KidsCan is a national charity meeting the basic physical and nutritional needs of financially disadvantaged children so they are in a better position to reach their full potential in school.

KidsCan currently feeds 7,000 disadvantaged Kiwi kids every school day. The Charitable Trust operates a discreet programme called Food For Kids supplying hungry children with muesli bars and fruit pottels in school. There is a further 12,000 children on the waiting list to receive the Food For Kids programme.

Director of KidsCan, Julie Helson says “I am disgusted at the lack of understanding of this very serious issue by Parekura Horomia. It’s time the Government stopped pretending child poverty doesn’t exist. We’ve debated this issue last February and more than a year on nothing has changed, in fact numbers have risen dramatically and the problem continues to get worse”.

Independent research by Massey University in 2007 found that the lack of adequate nutrition is a serious issue for thousands of New Zealand children.

Author of the report, Professor Mike O’Brien found that some disadvantaged children feed themselves on what they get from the water fountain at school. A lack of food leads to an inability to learn and to behavioural problems. Staff at low decile schools throughout New Zealand reported that children who were given the Food for Kids assistance showed dramatic changes in behaviour and capacity to learn. Professor O’Brien concluded that government should play its role in addressing poverty.

Julie Helson agrees. “People in positions like Parekura Horomia need to open their eyes to what’s going on in New Zealand now. Not only are kids being sent to school hungry, thousands are also turning up wet and cold because they don’t have a raincoat. Others turn up in bare feet in winter or teachers have to staple their inadequate shoes together – this is child poverty in New Zealand in 2008 that we see and it’s nothing to do with a lifestyle choice. For thousands of Kiwi families there simply isn’t enough money to buy food, they struggle to make ends meet and this results in kids going hungry, and that affects their performance at school and their ability to develop”.

As well as Food for Kids, KidsCan operates Raincoats for Kids and Shoes for Kids. Currently 20,000 Kiwi children are supported and funds are required to assist the 20,000 currently on the waiting list for all three programmes.

www.kidscan.org.nz

ends

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