Food In Schools Bill A ‘Band-Aid’ Solution

Media Release 5 November 2014
Family First NZ says that the Food in Schools Bill due for its 1st Reading in Parliament this week is well-intentioned but will be a short-term band-aid to mask the more serious issues of parental neglect, loan sharks, budgeting, and family breakdown.

“A child whose parents cannot even provide two pieces of toast in the morning or a bowl of porridge highlights a number of real concerns. A parent who is unwilling to provide packed lunches may not be providing other necessities that a child requires. How do we know that they are receiving meals at night or during the weekend? What is the household income being spent on, and is that appropriate? Are they receiving their correct entitlement? These are the real questions we should be asking,” says Bob McCoskrie, National Director of Family First NZ.

“This Bill will make us all feel better but will do nothing to solve the real poverty in NZ – poverty of marriage and family stability, poverty of good choices and decisions, and poverty of spirit. Marriage and family stability is the original and best department of health, education and welfare, yet it has been ignored.”

“We agree with former Labour leader David Shearer who said providing breakfast to children was ultimately a parent’s responsibility and any programme must be targeted at the actual need.”

“The belief that the programme will aid learning is a great theory but it’s not been proved. In fact, a report released in 2012 found that feeding hungry schoolchildren does nothing to boost their learning. The only positive effect was that children felt less hungry,” says Mr McCoskrie.

And a recent US study found that while participation rose, the expanded participation brought largely no benefit to those it was intended to help, and that the increase in participation resulted largely from students who merely substituted school breakfasts for those they were already getting at home – and that a certain percentage of the increase in participation was from some children eating two breakfasts.

“The government should use the funding to provide budgeting advice to families including education on healthy eating and cooking skills, and should stop procrastinating around fully protecting vulnerable families from loan sharks. The targeting of alcohol outlets and pokie machines in lower decile areas should also be dealt with,” says Mr McCoskrie.

“Schools want to provide an important stop-gap measure which is to be admired, but the greater issue is – is it solving the problem long-term? The danger is that we could be simply rewarding bad parenting and ignoring the more pressing social issues.”
ENDS