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Whangarei food poverty shows social policy changes needed

Whangarei food poverty shows social policy changes needed

Public Health Association media release

Tuesday 4 September 2012

Food poverty in Whangarei could be the worst in the country, a researcher told the Public Health Association Conference at Pipitea Campus, Victoria University, Wellington today.

In 2011 the Whangarei Child Poverty Action Group commissioned Sherry Carne of Artemis Research and Alina Mancini to examine the issue of food poverty in the community.

“Despite the recession being officially over, we found food poverty in Whangarei was a growing issue evidenced by the increase in school food programmes and the number of food parcels being provided through food banks and churches,” Ms Carne said.

To quantify how much free food was being provided to families and children charitable food providers and decile one to four schools in the Whangarei district were surveyed.

The survey found one in three children were receiving food assistance at school each week. All 14 of the decile one and two schools, and five of those rated three and four, were providing food to their students. Further, 12 schools were providing breakfast, sandwiches or cooked lunches for around 200 children who were turning up to lessons hungry.

Ms Carne says they identified a number of reasons why families were going hungry, including low incomes, debt, housing expenses and harder benefit criteria.

“When you combine medical costs, power bills, education and travel, food just becomes a discretionary item for many.”

She says the results prove changes to social policy are needed to counter the detrimental effects food poverty is having on children’s health and education in Whangarei. Her report makes a number of recommendations, mainly focused on making children the centre of welfare policy.

“What we need is a monitoring process to assess the impact on children when changes are made to social welfare policies and benefit levels. Also, establishing a base income that relates to housing, food and other necessary costs would help ensure families have enough to feed their children.

“The government must recognise that children cannot select their living circumstances. It is outrageous that so many children should be regularly hungry or face daily poor nutritional options due to poverty – a situation over which they have no choice or control.”


© Scoop Media

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