Fuseworks Media

Save the Children calls for continued investment in the Healthy School Lunches programme

Save the Children New Zealand is calling for continued investment in the Government’s Ka Ora, Ka Ako Healthy School Lunches programme in the face of proposed changes to the scheme from the new coalition government.

Save the Children’s Advocacy Director Jacqui Southey says this crucial policy directly invests in the wellbeing of children at school and what’s more, according to previous child consultation carried out by Save the Children last year, is popular with children who are eager to consult with decision makers to make the programme even better.

“This is a case of much-needed Government investment that directly benefits the far too many children in Aotearoa going to school hungry, yet expected to learn. The recently released child poverty statistics show levels of material child poverty have significantly worsened, meaning the numbers of children without the healthy food they need is worse not better.

“Pre-election, Prime Minister Luxon committed to continued funding for the Healthy School Lunches programme so we are extremely disappointed by the Government signalling proposed changes or cuts to the scheme.

“The Healthy School Lunches programme goes further than the individual child and family, it benefits communities and our economy. It provides the Government an effective way to deliver on their promise to reduce the cost of living. Families struggling with the high cost of groceries can redirect money toward other essential household costs they are also struggling to meet.”

Ms Southey says the programme provides local jobs and makes use of local food systems while reducing the consumption of imported packaged junk food, bad for bodies and the environment.

“A universal approach where all children are eating a healthy lunch together has important health and social benefits, and in turn this is translated into improved attendance and achievement levels.

“The Ka Ora Ka Ako programme is already targeted based on school need. To go further and target to individual children is problematic. It is demeaning to single out children as ‘poor kids’ and threatens their right to live free from discrimination.

“The lunch children receive should not be a source of shame or stigma. It would also be extremely challenging to ascertain which children are ‘poor enough’ to meet a targeted threshold.

“The Government must shift their perception from cost cutting to investment in positive child outcomes.

“Cutting the programme or degenerating it to harmful child targeting should not be based on examples of a school that has high food waste. For the schools that are challenged in delivering programme, there needs to be a review of their system to establish why it is not working. Consulting with children and their families is important to ensure effective delivery.”