Child Poverty Action Group calls for government-funded school food programme

Step up to the plate please!  The Child Poverty Action Group is calling on the government to step up to the plate and fund food programmes in New Zealand’s poorest schools.  

The Group’s recently released report, Hunger for Learning, discusses the experiences of five Auckland schools which run breakfast programmes and outlines the real educational advantages that these programmes offer to their students.

“Every school day across New Zealand there are thousands of children going to school without breakfast,” says CPAG spokesman Alan Johnson. 

“The reasons for this are varied and complex but our research indicates that low income and parents working long hours are at the heart of the problem, and that parental indifference or neglect, while a factor, are less of a factor than normally supposed. But whatever the causes, children aren’t to blame for their situation, and neither are their teachers and classmates who often have to deal with unfocused and sometimes disruptive children as a result of missed breakfasts.

The simplest and most straightforward response is to make sure breakfast is available for any child in a Decile 1 or 2 school who needs it, and is available on a universal basis so as not to stigmatise any child,“ Mr Johnson says.  “It is false economy to spend large sums on remedial education and other band aids to poor student achievement when the basics are being ignored.”

“CPAG is suggesting that a bare bones school breakfast programme operating in decile one and two schools would cost between $7 million and $14 million and perhaps as much as $20 million if its was extended to decile three schools and included most of the support for food and staffing costs”, Mr Johnson says

“This $20 million is less than the government is spending on the Gold Card public transport subsidies which have been recognised for making it easier for older New Zealanders to participate in their communities” Mr Johnson says. 

“All CPAG is asking is that the same consideration be given to New Zealand’s poorest children – that they be given every opportunity to participate in the education system.”