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Kiwi Kids Say YES To Keep Ka Ora, Ka Ako, Healthy School Lunches

More than 3300 children support keeping Ka Ora, Ka Ako in a Save the Children survey, despite the Government signalling potential cuts to the Healthy School Lunches Programme.

Results from Save the Children’s poll show 95% of the approximately 3500 children aged between 5-17-years surveyed are in support of "keeping" or "expanding" the programme, while just 3% of children surveyed (94 children) are in favour of removing the programme and 2% (80 children) "don’t know".

Tamariki had their say by individually completing an online poll, or with the support of their teachers completing the poll as a class, and 155 children voted in person via polling booths at events in Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland and Ngāmotu New Plymouth.

Comments from the children that engaged in the poll, showed just how important the Healthy School Lunches Programme is to them and their peers.

"Sometimes we don't have enough food to bring much lunch. Sometimes we run out of food at home. There is only dinner sometimes," one participant said.

"It’s a really good programme that helps," said another. "Some of my friends don’t have enough food at home and this helps them not be hungry."

"It is great that we get kai every day. Sometimes the lunches aren't that great. I like having kai all the time. My lunch is yummy most of the time. Why do we have to have salad? At home we don't have much food, so it's good when I come to school and know that there will be a kai for me to have."

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Save the Children New Zealand Advocacy Director Jacqui Southey says the programme is an investment in children’s wellbeing and achievement at school and directly supports families struggling with the cost-of-living crisis.

She says children have the right to be meaningfully consulted on Ka Ora, Ka Ako and their views should inform decisions related to any changes to the programme. Results are being shared with politicians.

"Despite being most directly impacted by any changes, children’s voices have not been heard. Our Children’s Voices polls have given them an opportunity to have their say. We hope government decision makers will listen and take onboard their feedback and consider the positive benefits of the programme for children in terms of Budget 2024 spending decisions.

"While Save the Children agrees that food waste minimisation is important, we do not support changes to the programme that could end up stigmatising children such as targeting to individuals. Instead, looking to alternatives to reduce waste such as providing greater choice, child consultation on menus and further training for kitchen staff and kai providers could improve an extremely effective programme."

Children polled also gave suggestions on how to improve the programme to make it more appealing and reduce waste, including adding more variety of food, a choice of menus, placing an order the week before, more fruit, and extra hot food options. Children showed they are aware of the importance of the programme and that cuts or reductions will be detrimental.

"Consider the negative impact the removing of this programme will have on this generation and generations to come," says one participant. "What will they miss out on achieving or providing for their communities and families in the future due to you cutting this cost and opportunities for them today? Then consider the cost the Government may have to pay in the future as a result of this possible cost saving today. Suggest the costs and impact in the future will outweigh the cost and benefit impact of today."

One respondent who voted for removal of the programme suggested that if the school lunches programme is reduced, the funds saved should be reinvested into other initiatives such as school gardens.

Ka Ora, Ka Ako is an investment rather than a cost, providing around a million lunches nationwide each week to more than 230,000 children in 998 schools and kura. Supporters of the programme say it improves children’s wellbeing, health and learning and supports children living in poverty. It is a tangible way for the Government to fulfil promises to reduce the cost of living, improve achievement and attendance rates, reduce reliance on cheap unhealthy food while supporting local jobs and food systems.

© Scoop Media

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