Families turning to foodbanks raises questions about school lunches

Publish Date
Monday, 4 February 2019, 4:37PM

What can be done to ensure kids are getting fed properly at school?

It was a question Andrew Dickens put to his listeners, after the news that some Tauranga families living in hardship are struggling to provide school lunches for their children as back-to-school costs mount. 

KidsCan's data shows that one in every five children in low-decile schools around New Zealand will head back to class this year without enough food.

Tauranga Budget Advisory Service manager Diane Bruin said there had been high demand for food parcels during the school holidays as allocated food money was paying for back to school costs.

"A number of young mothers have been seeking food assistance this week due to back to school costs," she said.

"We don't want to see children without food or school uniforms."

Bruin said children going back to school without food and uniforms was a "growing issue" in Tauranga, as well as high accommodation costs.

Tauranga principals were also noticing the back to school pressures on vulnerable children.

Merivale School principal Tom Paekau said the decile 1 school was graded as the lowest decile school in the Western Bay of Plenty because of the "social inequities and underprivileged" in the community.

However, the principal said, unfortunately, there were inequities and underprivileged children that existed in all Kiwi communities.

Paekau said it was up to the school to provide the best pedagogical outcomes for their tamariki [children].

"While there are pockets of struggle within the school, we try to alleviate some of the financial strain on our whanau through sponsorship and support from external agencies," he said.

Children were provided food through the school's breakfast club, Milk For Schools, Fruit in Schools programmes and lunch donations, Paekau said.

"This means no child ever goes without food at Merivale."

The school was also this year able to discount all back to school stationery packs.

Greerton Village School principal Anne Mackintosh said schools had become more of a social agency by ensuring children had the necessities provided by volunteers such as KidsCan.

"Without their amazing hard work and generosity, some of our students would indeed go hungry and not have clothing, shoes etc either," she said.

"It is a grim state of affairs and a very sad indictment on what is happening socially, economically and politically to our children, our most vulnerable."

Mackintosh said the school had extra food baskets in all classrooms for children to help themselves if they needed.

"We don't monitor it as it is a deeply personal thing and some children feel very embarrassed if they do not have food nor do they want to present their parents in a bad light. We respect this," she said.

Platters with sandwiches, muesli bars and fruit were also available at lunchtime.

KidsCan's chief executive Julie Chapman said this time of year can be overwhelming for families on the breadline.

"Every day they survive on very little. So there's no money for new stationery, or school bags, or expensive uniforms - many don't even know how they'll afford to put food in their child's lunch box," she said.

Some parents won't send their children to school because they felt ashamed they can't make ends meet, Chapman said.

Andrew Dickens asked listeners how parents end up in positions like this, and what they can do to ensure their kids are being.

Callers put their faith into budgeting and spending more wisely, while others questioned whether throwing money at the issue would solve things. 


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