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Food In Schools Masks Urgent Social Issues


27 May 2013

Food In Schools Masks Urgent Social Issues

Family First NZ says that a food-in-schools programme will be a short-term band-aid to mask the more serious issues of parental neglect, loan sharks, budgeting, and increasing living costs. Family First is also disputing claims that the programme will benefit learning and attendance.

“A child whose parents cannot even provide two pieces of toast in the morning or a bowl of porridge highlights a number of real concerns. A parent who is unwilling to provide packed lunches may not be providing other necessities that a child requires,” says Bob McCoskrie, National Director of Family First NZ.

“How do we know that they are receiving meals at night or during the weekend? The level of neglect may be far greater than just providing breakfast and lunches on weekdays. Who feeds the children during the holidays and during the weekend? And why would families bother feeding their children when they know there’s a ‘freebie’ meal at school.”

“The important question the government should be asking is – what is the household income being spent on, and is that appropriate? Are they receiving their correct entitlement?”

Family First is also rejecting claims by the Prime Minister John Key that the programme will aid learning.

“It’s a great theory but it’s not true. A report released in 2012 found that feeding hungry schoolchildren does nothing to boost their learning. The only positive effect was that children felt less hungry. Researchers at Auckland University's School of Population Health studied 423 children at decile one to four schools in Auckland, Waikato and Wellington for the 2010 school year,” says Mr McCoskrie.

“The government should use the funding to provide budgeting advice to families including education on healthy eating and cooking skills, and should stop procrastinating around protecting vulnerable families from loan sharks. The targeting of alcohol outlets and pokie machines in lower decile areas should also be dealt with.”

“Schools want to provide an important stop-gap measure which is to be admired, but the greater issue is – is it solving the problem long-term? And if food is not being provided, what else is the parents either failing to, or unable to, provide,” says Mr McCoskrie.

“Children should not be punished by having parents who are failing to fulfil a basic parenting role. The danger is that we could be simply rewarding bad parenting and ignoring the more pressing social issues.”


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