The power of food


FeedtheKidsI’ve been at the Mana Movement’s Feed the Kids symposium in Tokoroa this weekend.

The symposium explored the importance of feeding children breakfast and lunch at school, discussed the best models to apply the policy and at the wider impacts this will have on families and communities.

Mana MP Hone Harawira’s private members bill to feed the kids was pulled from the ballot last year and is to come up in parliament in June. It would provide the resources for all decile one and two schools to provide breakfast and lunch to their children as the first step in providing this for all schools.

Inevitably issues of poverty, inequality and the daily struggle for survival were discussed but the most revealing aspect of the discussion was the huge opportunities and benefits for New Zealand communities which will come from empowering communities to look after their kids as they want to.

But the most revealing part of the presentation was the realisation that feeding kids in schools opens up huge opportunities to grow and develop our communities.

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I’ve always had confidence in our families and communities to raise their kids well provided they have the resources to do so. However our families have become so financially stressed and life has become such a struggle that the feeding their kids is no longer always possible for so many.

The right-wing have always mocked policies such as feeding kids in schools. They say it’s a “nanny state” approach that takes away personal responsibility. They say people need freedom to make choices for themselves rather than have big governments make choices for them. Fair enough in most situations but what they always neglect to say is that freedom and choice come from having the income to make those choices. The poor automatically have less choice than the rich and the way to give people more choices is to increase their income and reduce income inequality across the society.

But the National/Act/Maori Party government is taking us in the opposite direction. Their policies aim to make the poor poorer and to create more opportunities for wealth and income to be shifted to the rich. And so poverty is endemic, third world diseases haunt our children kids go hungry in this land of plenty.

Providing government funding for schools to feed their children will not only feed hungry kids but also provide huge opportunities for family and community development where it is needed most.

Feeding kids at school will mean schools will call on parents and families to help as volunteers to prepare and deliver breakfast and lunches giving the chance to strengthen family/school ties and the all-important learning relationships which go with them.

It will encourage more schools to develop community gardens and, over time, be able to provide a significant amount of the food themselves.

Kids have always got their hands dirty at school – now they will have an even better reason.


  1. I feel conflicted by this idea.
    It does indeed achieve the ideas mentioned in your article.
    But it’s not actually an all inclusive idea. Many kids these days have allergies where they can’t even touch someone whom is handling something they’re allergic too. How do we combat this. It would be horrible for them to have to sit somewhere else like an outcast.
    For some families breakfast is the only family time they have. Does this break a part of the family fabric?
    Will kids mock each other for those that attend school breakfast and those who don’t. Unwittingly creating a class system at an early age?
    Religious and cultural requirements may or may not be met under this scheme? Will breakfast be halal/kosher … will prayer time be offered to those that want it at breakfast?
    Eating together is so much more than about food as you have mentioned.
    By turning it into a social production line do we undo underlying family fabrics?
    Basics like cleaning up after yourself or taking turns to prepare or offer breakfast … important social skills involving sharing and being courteous to others … will these disappear as kids become accustomed to having it handed to them on a plate and then taken away. Are we slowing down teaching kids to do things for themselves?
    Who will instruct these kids on basic table manners and who decides what those manners are?
    I think food in schools is a good idea on a level that it teaches them to grow it and take it home to eat. Teaching them to harvest their own properties and giving them some now lost skills not all of us have anymore.

    • You make an interesting set of points, and in a perfect world would be worth considering very closely. Alas, the situation for many children and families has reached crisis point where if food isn’t provided in schools they simply won’t be eating.

    • Jonny:

      If parents want to have family time with their kids at breakfast they still will be able to. It’s an option, not a mandatory requirement.

      I’d imagine that schools would just simply not provide peanut butter or other nut-containing foods to alleviate the allergy risk.

      As for the rest of it, I’d propose that these things are subservient to the need to get food into starving children. Teach manners at same time, sure, why not. But this is a solution to a dire problem and it’d be a poor reason not to do this out of some fairly nebulous concerns about ‘social fabric’ which, I promise you, will only benefit by having food in these kid’s bellies.

  2. Feeding kids, though obviously a moral thing to do, will not help if the food is derived from the globalised, corporate-controlled agricultural system and the corporate-controlled distribution system. That system is coming to an end, faster than most people imagine possible (2020 at the latest).

    Producing food locally will be the key to survival. And that’s the last thing corporations and their minions want. They want to profit from the control of food for as long as they can, i.e. till the system collapses.

    All those playing fields will be rather useless for the starving masses a decade from now. But since schools come under central government and central government comes under corporations, nothing will be done till it’s far too late.

  3. It is incorrect for Paula Bennett to claim the National are not doing anything to cure child poverty.
    They are well on track to almost eliminate child poverty by statistics.
    As the children of the wealthiest are included in the stats, the richer the wealthy parents get, the smaller the average level of child poverty there is. It is just basic stats 101. Lies, damn lies and statistics. You can make the statistics say anything you like.
    Kick people off benefits and it looks like you have created economic growth but in reality the poor are just getting poorer.
    Children aren’t really hungry, they are just a statistical anomaly that can be laughed off with a re presenting of the statistics in a different way.

    • I don’t believe you understand how they calculate levels of child poverty in NZ.

      It is usually related to a proportion of the median income level. Having more rich people impacts it only slightly but in a negative manner not in the way you suggest it is being manipulated for.

  4. Our small community support our local primary. Foodstuffs are donated for our children’s breakfast and lunch. A lot of children access this wonderful initiative. I know kids don’t care about statistics on child poverty they are just hungry. Feeding kids in schools is a wonderful concept and sorting out food allergies, religion surrounding food will only be as hard as you want it to be. However if the govt were to control this god knows where the food would come from or who would provide it. But as we know, the govt do not acknowledge child poverty and if they do mention it, it is only in passing. For them to acknowledge the problem would mean they would have to find a solution. As for the stigma surrounding children being fed at school all I can say is teach your children to have empathy for those less fortunate. I don’t think the fabric of families will come undone as a result of this initiative as a lot of families do not have the luxury of having breakfast with their children, some parents are out the door at 7-7.30 to get to work on time.

    • Im Sure There Will Be a Tenders Process ,Ultimately Larger Company’s Might outbid smaller cratering businesses on a nationwide scale but look at what Happened to ‘Georgie Pie’. ,Im Sure it would make an attractive Contract nationally – would this be another government scheme to monopolise & sell off just like with our other national assets?? , if its not Mc D’s then maybe it might be ‘Sponsored’ by Coke, Pepsi or even KFC or Hell’s. if not them someone else with Similar deep pockets – well Im sure at least I got the Point of it, well done – great choice of picture

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