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Food in schools vital for poorest children

CPAG spokesperson Alan Johnson says, “Recent reports, including one from the Ministry of Social Development, show children have been particularly hard-hit by the economic doldrums of the last five years. One in five New Zealand children now lives in poverty. The need for a food programme in low-decile schools is greater than ever.”

Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) is urging the government to fund food in schools for children in deciles one and two.

Evidence has mounted that life for children in low-income households has got tougher, as outlined in CPAG’s Hunger for Learning report last year.

CPAG spokesperson Alan Johnson says, “Recent reports, including one from the Ministry of Social Development, show children have been particularly hard-hit by the economic doldrums of the last five years. One in five New Zealand children now lives in poverty. The need for a food programme in low-decile schools is greater than ever.”

The Children’s Commissioner’s Expert Advisory Group (EAG) has recommended a national strategy for food in low-decile schools and a Bill to provide food to low-decile schools has just gone into the parliamentary ballot.

Alan Johnson says, “We are delighted the Mana Party has recognised the need for children to have healthy food in their tummies to learn. We strongly endorse their Bill to feed the kids. The cost will be repaid many times over as the evidence shows children do better in the classroom and become more engaged at school. To argue that it is unaffordable misses the point. We can’t afford to miss this opportunity to give thousands of children the best chance possible to become healthy adults.”

CPAG also supports the provisions of the Bill specifying nutritional guidelines and monitoring and evaluation of the programme.

“There is lots of evidence from around the world that providing food to children in schools has a positive effect. This is a simple, relatively cheap initiative that would make a big difference. Better learning, better school attendance, better school social life. What’s not to like? We hope all the political parties get behind this Bill to improve the lives of New Zealand’s poorest children.”