Hone Harawira’s Bill proposing to provide food for all decile one and two schools will be debated in parliament soon.
It is a blunt instrument which will do nothing for hungry children in higher decile schools and provide food where it’s not needed and not wanted.
A school principal in Whangarei says a proposed law change aimed at providing meals for students in poorer schools could reinforce negative stereotypes. . .
Hora hora Primary principal Pat Newman said that may send a message that all parents with children at poorer schools don’t feed them properly.
He said it does not cost his school a lot to step in when it needs to, discretely offering breakfast and sandwiches to individual students in need. . .
The Press points out other problems with the proposal:
One difficulty is the sheer logistics of the proposal. Most schools are neither set up nor staffed to provide meals to pupils. One figure much bandied about during recent debate has suggested that 80,000 children go to school each morning without having had breakfast.
While that number has a whiff of the Ministry of Made-Up Numbers about it, even confined to decile 1 and 2 schools, Harawira’s proposal would be a large and time- consuming effort to get breakfast and lunch to all those deemed to need them.
But the main difficulty with Harawira’s idea is that it tackles the issue from the wrong end. Hungry children in school are a just symptom of a root cause – inadequate, negligent parenting and decision-making.
For the state to take over providing something as fundamental as proper meals will, if anything, only aggravate that root cause.
The more dud parents become aware that their children will be fed if they fail to do so, the more they will be inclined to abdicate the responsibility.
Providing a decent breakfast and lunch for a child is hardly an onerous or expensive task. Eggs on toast or cereal for breakfast, and sandwiches with a nourishing filling for lunch, are within the capacity of every parent. . .
It’s not the fault of hungry children that their parents don’t feed them and it is a problem which needs to be addressed.
But providing food for all low decile schools isn’t the best way to do it.
Fonterra is providing free milk for all schools that want it – some high decile schools choose to have it, some low ones don’t.
This targeted and voluntary approach, in conjunction with charities like Kids Can which provides food, doesn’t address the problem of hopeless parents.
But at least it doesn’t waste food on schools which don’t need it, and gives it do children who do.