Mr Key’s Mythical Principals


Where do I start?

John Key cockily asserts that he’s canvassed principals and only one or two kids per school, at most, are coming to school hungry.  Of course, Key doesn’t name these principals or their schools. As Peter O’Connor commented, “I guess it gives new meaning to evidence based decision making when a chat with a few principals can be construed as evidence”

As is often the case with Key, facts are flexible, evidence short in supply, and the answer he gives to a serious and important question is given as if he is on 7 Days, playing for shits and giggles.

Well, I’m not laughing.

Many took the time to speak out on Save Our Schools NZ’s Facebook page, aghast that John Key could even suggest there’s no problem.

One amazed teacher explained:

“…at our school we feed between 50 and 70 kids everyday for breakfast, go through about 250 lunches a week. Yes we have fruit in schools and milk in schools as well. We are so grateful for KidsCanNZ‘s support. We have never let a child go hungry and nor would we.

I have come to the conclusion that the odd 1 or 2 in decile 1 schools are all at ours.

Thanks Mr Key for sorting that out.

Even where students were fed, there were still concerns raised, with many commenting on the quality of many of the lunches that do arrive at school:

We are a small decile 2 school and all our children have lunch. There is a problem though with the nutritional value of the lunch for a number of children.

Another noted:

TDB Recommends

Technically, a can of Sprite and a packet of chips is “lunch”.  Just not a healthy lunch.

I’ve witnessed this, myself, in the schools I have worked in in New Zealand, despite them being high decile schools.  The child who arrived every day with a packet noodle and nothing else.  The child who arrived with a sandwich and nothing else.  The children whose lunch box contained just chippies, fruit strings, a few crackers, but nothing of substance.

Sure, they had lunch.  But what kind of lunch is that?

This dismayed teacher wanted their observations shared anonymously:

In our decile 1a school I have observed the following this term: 
1. Two children have been absent from my class because there was no food for lunches.
2. Today a boy took 11 of the milk cartons from our school milk and put them in his bag. He loves milk and they don’t have it at home…
3. Our local church brings sandwiches every week which are frozen and we defrost or toast them for approx 5 students a day.
4. We provide breakfast, fruit and milk also. Something I have noticed …  students on camp who completely transform in their behaviour because, I believe, we feed them so well – I truly believe these kids had never been “full”
5. It is not uncommon to see a children, including 5 year olds, with a large bag of chips for their lunch and play.
6. We have a group of about 7 kids who have noodles almost everyday for lunch.

So, we’ve heard from the teachers, but what about some good hard statistics?

The New Zealand School Trustees Association (NZSTA) last year conducted research into food in schools programmes. 458 schools responded, evenly spread between the deciles.

Asked to what degree they agreed with the statement “Students don’t come to this school hungry,” these were the results, broken down by decile:

NZSTA graph children do not come to this school hungry


I wonder if Mr Key’s principals were in there?

If they were, then those principals and Mr Key might want to ponder the fact that, in these responses, staff were more likely than principals to say students were coming to school hungry.

He might also want to talk to principals such as Rhys McKinley, who found Key’s claim “laughable”, saying:

The Porirua East area is full of decile one and two schools. The principals often talk about health matters at cluster meetings, and food in bellies is a major issue. We’re not talking about one or two kids

The NZSTA report concludes:

NZSTA food programmes paper - conclusion

Perhaps the Prime Minister might want to speak to those at the coal face, for a more detailed picture regarding the need to feed the kids?


NZSTA Survey on Food Programmes in Schools – STANews December 2013 – contact mhall@nzsta,org,nz

Hungry children ‘isolated examples’, says Key – 3 News

NZ Parliament – Prime Minister’s Statements – 5th November 2014

PM’s downplaying of hunger in schools stuns principals – Scoop


  1. Yes, but there is John Key’s ‘sound-bite statements’ and ‘throw away lines’ and then there’s truth and fact. The two dimensions are not on the same planet – this, we know! Why are we ever surprised?

  2. Not only does our unworthy titled leader need to become more involved with the general population of our society, he needs to stop plucking silly, unconvincing, unbackable information out of the air, and he has to stop lying. To put it bluntly, he’s only proven himself as another politician who is a blundering and incompetent idiot to himself and his capitalist supporters, not those of us who can see what he’s doing, which he shouldn’t be doing.

  3. If there’s any truth to Mr. Key’s statement, and I doubt it, he probably canvassed a school like Epsom Boy’s Grammar. The only reason kids there would have no lunch is because they forgot it and couldn’t be bothered ringing mummy on her cell. To know what life is like for poor people, you actually need to speak to poor people!
    ANY child going hungry in our wealthy country is unacceptable, this ” Oh it’s just a couple of kids”, offhand remark is so typical and reveals this man’s true nature. All I can say is I hope there really is a hell.

    • I agree with your comment… but just wanted to make one small point.

      There is no Epsom Boys Grammar.

      There is an Epsom Girls Grammar. The corresponding boys school is Auckland Grammar.

    • @Liberty4NZ ” Oh it’s just a couple of kids”, offhand remark is so typical and reveals this man’s true nature. – thank you for your observation and yes this moron is so out of touch,he plucks statistic’s out of thin air and expects the nz public to have faith in his leadership..I think not!

  4. “As is often the case with Key, facts are flexible, evidence short in supply, and the answer he gives to a serious and important question is given as if he is on 7 Days, playing for shits and giggles.”

    Nailed it!

  5. Having a family background from Europe, it constantly defies belief (for me) that New Zealand – a major food producing nation – still has thousands of children going hungry.

    If societies in Europe can provide good, nutritious food in schools for all children – what possible hindrance can there be for not doing the same in our country?

    I’ll offer one possible hindrance; our left-over, deep-seated, notion in our collective psyche of the “deserving poor” and “undeserving poor”. Possibly left over from Presbyterian, “hard working” ethics imported by white settlers. (Now mixed with a good dollop of Neo Liberal Individualism – the Me First Generation – which facilitates selfishness on a grand scale.)

    Even now, those with rightwing or punitive tendencies will blame parents for their lack of food. Having the children of those families continue to be hungry is a form of retribution against those parents.

    It is perhaps the sickest, darkest aspect of New Zealand’s so-called “egalitarian” (hah!) society that so many New Zealanders (but not all, by any means) are willing to countenance starving children simply to punish “errant” parents.

    This, to me is a form of child abuse every bit as horrible as a toddler shoved into a dryer and spun around; or left to die in a dark room on a plastic sheet; or raped until they die from internal bleeding or whatever. But worse perhaps, because those in our society who seek to deny food for children in schools are ignoring a very real social evil just to satisfy their own perverse desire for retribution against adults.

    Evil does indeed flourish when it is ignored by seemingly good people. And what greater evil can their be than a (relatively) rich society turning it’s back on it’s own hungry children?

    • According to those “right wing” neo liberal sociopaths, we do not “deserve” to live, even, unless we “happily” sign up to endless bondage and modern day wage slavery, to “work” and “pay” our way out of our misery. Nobody is born with any “right” according to their ideology, have NO damed doubt about it.

      Bill English’s approach to “social housing” is based on the same principle. Nothing is “for free”, get off your “backside” and slave, and pay, also do not forget that burial of your eventual corpse generates “costs”, so save for that also, is the message!

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