Budget 2020: School lunch programme boosted as $412m goes to social services

Amelia Wade, NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Thu, 14 May 2020, 2:30pm
(Photo / Getty)
(Photo / Getty)

Budget 2020: School lunch programme boosted as $412m goes to social services

Amelia Wade, NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Thu, 14 May 2020, 2:30pm

More than $412 million will go towards social services - with $252.6 million going towards keeping Kiwis fed.

About $32 million will go towards responding to the increasing demand for food banks and a major expansion of the school lunch programme, it was announced in today's Budget.

Students suffering hardship and struggling isolated fishing communities will each get $20 million while social services will get a $80 million boost.

The boost to the school lunch programme will see about 200,000 children fed every day - up from 8000 - and the Government says this scale-up will create about 2000 jobs.

The school lunch programme will expand over the next year to feed about 200,000 students by Terms 2-3 in 2021, targeting students in schools with the highest disadvantage.

Another $220.6 million will go towards the programme in operating and capital expenditure and it's hoped 21,000 students in Years 1-8 will get lunches by the end of this year.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said a full stomach made all the difference to a child's learning.

"Providing a free and healthy lunch at school is one way to help make New Zealand the best place in the world to be a child and to make that difference immediately," Ardern said.

Education Minister Chris Hipkins said the scale of the expansion meant work would be scaled up during Term 3, including hiring local people and building systems and processes that reduce compliance costs on providers and improve data security.

He estimated about 2000 jobs in local communities would be created by expanding the programme.

Food waste, which is estimated to be 4375 tonnes per annum by the University of Otago, is also a focus.

Agriculture Minister Damien O'Connor said Covid-19 disrupted supply chains which caused problems with access to food and risked food waste.

Food at the biggest risk of being wasted was fruit, vegetables and eggs.

O'Connor said $15 million will fund a new initiative to purchase produce set to be wasted and deliver fresh produce boxes to those in need.

Spending will go towards scaling up Fruit in Schools to see about 100,000 boxes delivered to children over the next 10 weeks and to developing and trialling digital platforms to enable other novel solutions to connect food with consumers.

Food banks

About $32 million will also go towards responding to the increasing demand and pressures on foodbanks created by the Covid-19 crisis.

A new bulk food distribution - dubbed the New Zealand Food Network - will be set up to support food banks and other community food providers.

Social service providers boost

Almost $80 million will go towards social services to ensure they can continue to support people recover from the impact of the Covid-19 crisis, said Social Development Minister Carmel Sepuloni.

Funding will go to all 131 budgeting services, which have seen an increase in demand, to help New Zealanders manage their finances.

Grants to the tune of $36 million will be available for community groups, with a specific focus on enabling Māori, Pacific, refugee and migrant communities to access the fund.

In a pre-Budget announcement on Monday, the Government announced $202.9 million over the next four years to address family violence, including $13 million for therapeutic services and treatment for children and young people exposed to family violence.

A further $8.6 million over two years will provide grants to around 200 family violence providers to increase their capacity.

Fishing communities

The Covid-19 crisis exacerbated challenges many rural and fishing communities already faced, like isolation and limited access to services, said Rural Communities Minister Damien O'Connor.

Another $20 million will go to addressing that.

The fund will increase access to support, advice and mental wellbeing services to vulnerable groups and will enable primary sector businesses to receive financial and continuity planning, O'Connor said.

Tertiary Student Hardship Fund

A $20 million hardship fund will go to help students through the next few months, said Hipkins.

"A major advantage of this approach is that it can be implemented easily and gets money into the hands of students who need it quickly, distributed by students' education providers."