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Mike's Editorial: Specific solutions needed for food in schools

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| Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Mike's Editorial: Specific solutions needed for food in schools

Yes a food in schools programme seems to be one of those funny old things that many of us feel just slightly uncomfortable about, but would never really want to say so too loudly.

There were two polls out on TV last night, and broadly they said the same thing. about 75 per cent of us think governments should feed kids and 25 per cent don’t. But what a ridiculous question. Should governments feed kids in schools? It’s such a simplistic question for such a complex problem. So who’s really is going to say no?

No one wants to look bad or mean and we all know and accept there are kids who go to school hungry and we all know and accept that they don’t learn as well and probably disrupt the classroom. So we naturally come to the conclusion that the simple and easy thing to do is stick a bit of Weet-Bix in front of them, have the Government and a few sponsors foot the bill and we can all feel good about ourselves.

But here are the complexities of the issue no one wants to address. The programme will be confined to low decile schools which is such a broad brush and condescending approach to start with. It automatically assumes if you’re at a low decile school, you can’t feed your kids. So for every parent who works hard, makes sacrifices and is doing well in trying to give their kid a better life, you get dropped in with the dead beat parents who don’t.

It also assumes kids in decile four, six, seven or nine schools don’t go to school hungry when in fact they do. Perhaps not as many or as often, but the decile of the school doesn’t always relate to the attitude skills and approach of the parents.

But that’s how the programme will be rolled out today, not targeting those who actually need it but those who roughly fit a stereotype. At no point does anybody ask a parent why their child is hungry. No one at any point looks at the money in that house and where it’s gone and why the vast majority of parents can afford a bit of cereal and toast but why those who seemingly can’t have so much trouble. No one asks how much is real financial trouble and how much is just sheer laziness. And of that laziness, what actually gets done about it.

All of that is too hard. Like the survey keep the questions bland, the solutions simple, the targets broad. It gets good headlines, shuts the critics up, makes us feel good.

Presumably among today’s hype and headlines, some genuine cases are dealt with and they’re grateful for what’s being done. But if you look at today in its totality, actual need and specific solutions aren’t anywhere near the top of the agenda.

Photo: Edward Swift

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