Principals in some of Northland’s poorest communities back Prime Minister John Key’s view that a universal free lunch programme isn’t the best way to help hungry children:
. . . Mr Key said the Government would spend more money on alleviating child poverty – but it would not be supplying free lunches.
Schools were discreetly managing the problem of children coming to school without lunch, and the Government had no intention of relieving parents of their responsibility to provide it, he said.
Tai Tokerau Principals’ Federation president Pat Newman – well-known for his criticism of the Government’s education policies – said Mr Key had a point.
He said most low-income parents managed a packed lunch most of the time for the children at his low decile school.
“At the moment, we’ve got 32 packs of sandwiches in the freezer; when that’s used up – probably by Friday – we’ll make some more. Now what”s that costing a week? Ten bucks?”
Mr Newman said when a child did arrive without lunch, the school provided sandwiches, free milk – and all the fruit they wanted from the Fruit in Schools scheme.
“You know I have to agree with Key. I don’t believe we shove all the kids down the hall and say ‘right, you’re all eating lunch’.
“If you did it this way I think it could be a lot cheaper and a lot simpler, because some children need food, some children need shoes.”
Mr Newman said the fund could operate accountably, like the Kiwisport grant schools received to help out children who could not afford the club fees or gear to play weekend sport.
Principals at two other low decile schools also agreed a universal meal programme was not what they needed, and supported the need for a discretionary fund.
Kaitaia Primary principal Brendan Morrissey said the Feed The Kids bill was well-intentioned and came from the heart of the former local MP Mr Harawira.
But he said it would be impractical because feeding the whole school would take more staff, more time and a commercial kitchen.
Mr Morrissey said his school fed up to 25 children a day with no fuss, with support from corporates such as Fonterra, Sanitarium and Top Top – plus goods donated by local businesses. . .
Al children should be properly fed and clothed but it is better to target help to those in need than to offer a universal programme which would cost more, take more time, waste food and money on children who aren’t in need and not necessarily address all the problems of those in need.
Any assistance given should also address the causes of the problem of hungry children.
One of those is poor parenting which could, in some cases, be due to causes beyond the parents’ ability to remedy by themselves.