Hungry minds v. hungry bellies

By   /   July 4, 2015  /   30 Comments

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When I relieve in schools, I pack a hearty lunch – two or three rounds of sandwiches, 4-8 biscuits, a pile of crackers, and fruit coming out of the wazoo. I pack double or treble what I need because I know there will almost always be at least one student that needs to be fed in my class.

When I relieve in schools, I pack a hearty lunch – two or three rounds of sandwiches, 4-8 biscuits, a pile of crackers, and fruit coming out of the wazoo.  A fly on the wall might be forgiven for thinking this is a glutton at work – after all, I’m a woman of ample girth – but the fly would be wrong. I pack double or treble what I need because I know there will almost always be at least one student that needs to be fed in my class.

I could argue that it’s not my job to feed a child who has no lunch. I could rail at whoever sent the child to school without food. I could shake my fist at any number of things. But I don’t. I feed the kids.

Because no matter why they are standing in front of me hungry, there’s little to nothing they can do about it.

The child didn’t ask for this. They didn’t make this happen, They are on the receiving end of all manner of issues about which they have no control and they are hungry.

So I feed the child.

So they can focus.

So they can learn.

It’s that simple, really.

Actually, it’s far from simple, even in my small world of that particular class on that particular day. Because the older the child is, the more likely they are to lie and say they do have food, even when they don’t. Older kids will affect some swagger and say they’re not hungry or that they’ve eaten their food earlier. They’re not daft – they know what it’s like to be judged, and they don’t like it. So they don’t take the risk – especially if they don’t know me.

1 hungry child = feed the kids

Feed The Kids – A short animation by SOSNZ

And given the comments I hear and read from adults on this issue week by week, I can completely see why these kids choose to protect themselves from the possibility of this ever-present criticism: These kids may not yet know enough to be ‘at standard’ in maths or reading, but they sure as heck are ‘well above standard’ when it comes to self preservation.

Better, they think, to be hungry than shamed.

And this is not only happening in low decile schools. I’ve seen this with my own eyes in schools from decile 2 to decile 9. To frame it as a decile-related issue is to ignore the complexity of what’s at play. Even kids living in wealthier areas come to school hungry or arrive with inadequate or invisible lunches.

So what’s being done about this?

Today’s Herald reports that when the Feed The Kids Bills came before parliament this year, Hekia Parata called three schools to get a feel for the situation. Three schools. What did she ask? How were her questions framed? Did she really think three calls would tell her all she needs to know about such a vast and complicated issue?

It speaks volumes about how seriously the issue is treated by the Minister (and perhaps explains why she applauds low-quality reports such as come out of the NZ Initiative) when she thinks three calls comprises high quality research.

So, here, I will help the Minister by sharing with her (and you) a report on child poverty by New Zealand’s Children’s Commissioner that explains clearly that 17% of Kiwi kids regularly go without the basic things they need and that NZ already spends $6-8 billion a year addressing the consequences of child poverty.

Consider the conclusion of the report:

“The ongoing costs of poverty, at 4 percent of GDP per annum, are simply too high for us to fail to address the underlying causes.

When we choose to invest more in young and disadvantaged children, we will position New Zealand better to meet the challenges of labour market demands, ageing demographics, and the drive for economic productivity so we can maintain our standard of living.

Strategic investment in children will benefit all New Zealanders.”

For the children, for the economy and for all of us, it is wiser to work on prevention: The ambulance at the bottom of the cliff is never an effective policy.

Please, feed the kids.

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30 Comments

  1. Thank you for a well written piece, Dianne.

    It’s a shame this government can’t be as willing to implement food in schools programmes as it is to subsidise Charter schools. If the Nats threw as money tax-dollars at this problem as they did at their pet projects (Charter schools, Saudi farms, flag referenda, kitting out government department buildings, aluminium smelters, movie industry, et al), we might actually start to address this shameful problem…

  2. George Hendry says:

    Thanks Dianne 🙂

    This is perhaps the only issue where all the science is in and no disagreement or debate. It is simply wrong, as Susan St John has been pointing out for so long, to penalise defenceless children in any way, especially one so crucial to survival, for the perceived irresponsible behaviour of their parents.

    This is a human rights issue, pure and simple. Government ministers will one day be tried for and found guilty of their crimes against the children they are sworn to protect.

    • Kathy says:

      I don’t think they will be George, but I do think they should be (Government Ministers be tried, that is)

  3. Andrewo says:

    Some pertinent questions:

    Are more kids going to school hungry now than they were under Labour?

    What indeed ARE the underlying causes of kids going to school hungry? Because if some kids from poor families arrive with a cut lunch, what’s wrong with the other parents?

    If you recall, the Campbell live programme on this topic showed brown kids who attend a Decile 1 school going into the dairy with plenty of cash and spending it on sweets and soft drink. So can we conclude that poor parenting and budgeting are also part of the problem?

    We see large families trying to live on meagre incomes so might advice on contraception also be a good idea?

    It’s clearly a complex problem. One which can’t be solved simply by throwing other peoples money at it.

    • Dianne Khan Dianne Khan says:

      Who cares whether they were also hungry under Labour? I care about students. I care about them having a fair chance to learn. Ideally there would be a living wage and decent benefits, houses with reasonable rents and help for parents who need to learn to budget. But those things aren’t happening, and some kids are unable to do their best because they can’t concentate simply because they are hungry. That’s got to change. And it can change.

    • It’s clearly a complex problem. One which can’t be solved simply by throwing other peoples money at it

      Really? Funny how investing in resolving social problems is “throwing money at it” – but tax cuts is not? Especially when those tax cuts were funded by overseas borrowing – other peoples’ money.

      The rest of your polemic is strong on generalisations and parroted right wing cliches – but short on fact.

      When you ask, “Because if some kids from poor families arrive with a cut lunch, what’s wrong with the other parents?” – you haven’t explained who those “some” are or their circumstances.

      You’ve simply ignored the problem because “some” people are in a different situation.

      It’s like me saying to you, Andrew; “Why aren’t you a multi-millionaire? What’s wrong with you?”

      As for asking “Are more kids going to school hungry now than they were under Labour?” – your attempt at trying to blame Labour simply shows you’re admitting the problem exists but have no solution except fingerpoint to someone else.

      Is that really the best you National supporters can do? Really?

      By the way, if you want to look at poverty/inequality under the previous Labour government, I’m happy to oblige.

      According to Statistics NZ, inequality has risen since the implementation of Rogernomics in the mid/late 1980s. It plateued briefly in the early 1990s, before skyrocketing after effects from Ruth Richardson’s “Mother of all Budgets” in 1991 kicked in.

      Inequality dropped from 2004 to 2009.

      http://www.stats.govt.nz/browse_for_stats/snapshots-of-nz/nz-progress-indicators/home/social/income-inequality.aspx

      Food for thought?

      • Andrewo says:

        FRANK: It’s like me saying to you, Andrew; “Why aren’t you a multi-millionaire? What’s wrong with you?”

        Nothing it seems. Because in fact I am. 😉

        I’ve worked hard for it.

        I am also the child of an invalid single parent who was brought up on a benefit but who ran a veggie garden for the two of us and I don’t recall ever missing a meal.

        I think there may be some merit in providing school meals but mostly I would like the social problems and attitudes that cause children to go to school hungry to be addressed. Otherwise it’s going to be an endless cycle of ever bigger handouts with the unintended consequence of encouraging these people to believe even more firmly that feeding & raising their children is somehow the government’s job.

        Looking at the big picture, what you’re proposing is the increased theft from the middle classes in the form of taxes to enable the lower classes to produce even larger families. As well as being patently unjust, it’s also the road to demographic suicide.

        We need intervention to eliminate the problem because no child in an OECD nation should go hungry. It is simply unacceptable. But they need real help, not handouts in perpetuity.

        • Dianne Khan Dianne Khan says:

          Did you miss the bit about poverty COSTING the country billions? Dealing with poverty (and, yes, dealing with the factors outside school would be even better than feeding the kids, if we are going for an ideal solution) would not cost us, it would save us. And it would save them. Living wage and reasonable benefits it is then – what will you do to start that moving?

        • It’s like me saying to you, Andrew; “Why aren’t you a multi-millionaire? What’s wrong with you?”

          Nothing it seems. Because in fact I am.

          *cough*

          Yeah, right.

          And I’m a Timelord from Gallifrey…

          Looking at the big picture, what you’re proposing is the increased theft from the middle classes in the form of taxes to enable the lower classes to produce even larger families.

          Three points to that inane rubbish, Andrew;

          1. You’re parroting right wing dogma without putting much thought into it.

          Just how many ” lower classes will produce even larger families”? Do you have any data on that? Any facts? Any evidence at all?

          Feel free to produce it.

          I predict you won’t and will deflect elsewhere.

          2. So what you’re suggesting is that only the rich should breed, eh? You do realise that there are vastly fewer One Percenters (hence why they are 1% of the population) than the poor and middle classes) than everyone else? Who will pay for our burgeoning superannuation bill if the poor are permitted to have children; gain an education; get into jobs; and pay taxes for future superannuitants?

          Because it won’t be the 1%.

          3. Your attitude toward the poor is breath-takingly ugly, Andrew.

          Finally. In case you are a millionaire, Andrew, you can thank your lucky stars you were born into a country that cared for “the child of an invalid single parent who was brought up on a benefit”.

          Because it seems to me you have totally missed the irony of your success, despite being supported by State welfare that took ” increased theft from the middle classes in the form of taxes”.

          It’s a shame you’ve missed the most important life-lesson given to you.

          • Andrewo says:

            Not sure if you’ve heard of this one Frank:

            ‘The road to hell is paved with good intentions’

            So the author of the article means well – her intentions are, I think, good but a thinking person will ask themselves “Where will this end?” If I fund school breakfasts, how long with it be before there is a clamour from the do-gooders to fund school lunches and then school shoes and so on.

            Whilst I realise it is the aim of Marxists that the state becomes the parent, it hasn’t worked so well where they’ve tried it.

            So sure we need some intervention but that intervention has to be carefully considered to avoid the law of unintended consequences. For example I see lots of young middle class couples postponing children because they can’t afford it. For the good of the nation I would sooner they were encouraged to have children than a persons on low incomes who more than likely have poor literacy, numeracy and hence parenting skills.

            As for fertility rates, if you’re producing a child you can’t feed then you’ve produced one too many and you have no right to expect someone else to pay for it.

            If you can’t feed then, don’t breed them.

            • The Daily Blog The Daily Blog says:

              With all due respect Andrew – the majority of this is bullshit.

              Feeding children in schools is something America and Britain do – are you suggesting those two are Marxist countries? If you do, my second question is ‘do you understand what Marxism means or is it just something you heard Mike Hosking say once’?

              The benefit was set by Ruth Richardson based on equations that were just under the minimum adult nutritional needs, the benefit is designed to keep people hungry. That you would deny feeding hungry children at school while we borrow billions for tax cuts and then attempt to take the moral high ground is a feat of incredible intellectual gymnastics.

            • Dianne Khan Dianne Khan says:

              There are so many ignorant comments in there, Andrew, I can only assume you are spoiling for an argument. I won’t give you one. I refuse to engage with such nastiness and ignorance.

              • Andrewo says:

                If you can’t handle debate then don’t post.

                It’s a complex problem with complex and varied causes. It requires debate and simplistic ideology needs to be challenged.

                • Dianne Khan Dianne Khan says:

                  I can handle debate just fine. I choose not to debate with people who repeatedly offer up ignorance, as they clearly are not willing to debate or discuss and would rather push an agenda. I asked you what your solutions to solving the issues of poverty outside school are, since we agree that is a huge issue in itself, and so far I’ve yet to see a reply.

                • Andrew: “So the author of the article means well – her intentions are, I think, good but a thinking person will ask themselves “Where will this end?” If I fund school breakfasts, how long with it be before there is a clamour from the do-gooders to fund school lunches and then school shoes and so on. “

                  Oh my god!! We’d end up with well-fed children able to learn properly , just like in Scandinavian countries!!

                  Outrageous!!

                  We can’t have that!!

                  Where will it end, I ask you, where will it end?!?!

                  Andrew: “It requires debate and simplistic ideology needs to be challenged.”

                  Indeed, Andrew. The very purpose of this blog – to challenge simplistic ideology. Especially from the Right.

                  Thus far you’ve offered nothing by way of useful solutions except judgementalism.

                  No kid chose which family to be born into.

                  And not many parents chose jobs that ended in redundancies due to new technology and cheap imported goods from low-wage societies.

                  If you have solutions – instead of finger-pointing and bloody-minded judgementalism, we’d love to hear it.

                  Go ahead, surprise us.

                • Andrea says:

                  There’s been ‘debate’ on this issue since the nineteenth century.

                  Talk’s cheap.

                  “The answer is given by the cynic who said that five percent of the people think; ten percent, think they think; and eighty-five percent would rather die than think.”

                  Are you in there with the majority?

                  Money tends to be thrown by people who would rather ‘give to a good cause’ than resolve the problem. Keeps them away from the dirty details…

                  As an aside – this whole ‘middle class’ trope about carrying so many untaxed, unworthy, prolific, (feel free to rant)free-loading individuals on their fine, upstanding, beneficent, kindly, morally-firm shoulders (provide your own leak-proof baggie) – you are reminded that low income people also pay taxes every every time they make a purchase or make a dollar.

                  If it’s not as ‘much’ as their Blessed Brethren – there’d be more to tax if their pay was as decent as the middle class thinks it is. (deliberate ambiguity.)

                  And congratulations to your parent. It’s good to know they had enough of a job and a big enough yard to grow veggies. So many people today simply don’t have that luxury, skill or time.

            • Andrew: “As for fertility rates, if you’re producing a child you can’t feed then you’ve produced one too many and you have no right to expect someone else to pay for it.

              If you can’t feed then, don’t breed them.”

              Andrew, you’re obviously not devoting much thought to this are you?

              1. Even if what you say is true, why should children suffer hunger for being brought into this world?

              Please, please answer me this. Because thus far no right wing individual has offered much by way of explanation except parroting more garbage.

              2. In 1 January 2008, there were 78,000 Unemployed people in NZ.

              (Source: http://www.tradingeconomics.com/new-zealand/unemployed-persons – set parameters to 2006-2008, column)

              By 1 October 2012, this had risen to 171,000 unemployed people.

              (Source: http://www.tradingeconomics.com/new-zealand/unemployed-persons – set parameters to 2012-2012, column)

              That’s an increase of 93,000 people losing their jobs in four and a half years.

              Do you think that 93,000 New Zealanders woke up one morning and said to their partners;

              “Y’know, bugger working for $800-$1,000 a week. I think I’ll chuck in my job so we can live off unemployment for half that amount.”

              Really?

              3. What is your chosen method of exterminating children of those workers who lose their jobs; gassing? Mass drowning (ie, think sack of kittens)? or just mass burial-whilst-alive?

              And what about those women who have to escape abusive relationships before their partners shoot/stab/strangle/bludgeon them to death?

              Or that wives who come home just in time to see their hubby pack his last suitcase in his car and when asked what he’s doing, replies he’s leaving her and their their three sons (aged 1, 3, and 7), so he can shack up with his blonde co-worker. (Yeah, that really happened to my partner’s cousin.)

              Your call.

              By the way, do you have any data how many women on the DPB have more children whilst on the benefit?

              It’s all very nice parroting judgementalistic right wing cliches – but let’s have some facts for a change.

  4. J S Bark J S Bark says:

    A good insightful blog Dianne.

    Interestingly you say a very similar thing to what John Campbell always used to say when he was railing against child poverty.

    “It’s not the kids’ fault.”

    It certainly isn’t but the reaction of Andrewo to this issue is very typical of the right wing “don’t think about it” government, which is to see where the blame can be placed.

    The advantage of looking for blame is that you then don’t have to address the problem itself.

    Dianne, John Campbell, and the battalions of volunteers who simply jump in and act take the view that it is better to do something about child hunger than to try using logical arguments with a bunch of unfeeling ideologues.

    The latter always ends up in endless arguments and denials.

    The former actually puts food in bellies.

    So where do you align?

    • The Other Mike says:

      Maybe timely to remind ourselves of this: “Studies from all over the world drive home the exact same point: free money helps. Proven correlations exist between free money and a decrease in crime, lower inequality, less malnutrition, lower infant mortality and teenage pregnancy rates, less truancy, better school completion rates, higher economic growth and emancipation rates.

      ‘The big reason poor people are poor is because they don’t have enough money’, economist Charles Kenny, a fellow at the Center for Global Development, dryly remarked last June. ‘It shouldn’t come as a huge surprise that giving them money is a great way to reduce that problem.’”

      Posted at other blogs (still a good read) and from https://decorrespondent.nl/541/why-we-should-give-free-money-to-everyone/31639050894-e44e2c00

    • Andrewo says:

      JS: Far from not thinking about it, I’m asking you to think about it DEEPLY. Think beyond the present. Think with your head rather than your heart.

      But you’re 100% right on one point: It’s not the kid’s fault.

      No kid deserves to be born into those circumstances

      • Dianne Khan Dianne Khan says:

        And those who were not “born into those circumstances” but whose parents lost their jobs, or wage rises failed to stay in line with rising costs, or a parent leaves or dies or is sick? Should we just euthanase those children? You may want to think about things more deeply. You need to think about the many, many circumstances that lead to that child on that day not having food and not make such generalisations or assumptions.

      • Andrea says:

        Andrewo: then rise from your rear, use a part of your massive wealth and get the word out to your associates in the corporate world that it’s time they paid fairly.

        Could you also remember that contraception costs. Contraception fails. Including vasectomies.

        At the minor risk of ‘offending’ – how come it’s okay for you to be raised as the child of a sole parent? Shouldn’t they have thought long and hard about – what if my other half dies unexpectedly at work, or from some terminal malady? I won’t even risk having kids. I might offend the middle class.

        So here you are: the product of all manner of support, despite being raised by a sole parent. I hope your mother didn’t have to listen to her peers saying the sort of things you’re saying. I hope we were kinder then.

  5. K16 (formally K.A JACK) says:

    Great work that you help to feed students that you work around.

    I have the exact same thought process… It is not that kids fault that they don’t have any lunch…

    Many of my mates say that its the parents fault or that they never had it so they don’t need it…

    Excuses like this just show that we don’t care about the kids who go hungry at school….

    JK wants to privatize everything… Watch out before he gets his way…

    • K16 (formally K.A JACK) says:

      It is those excuses which take the true meaning away from this subject. We need to feed the poor kids of the next generation ‘to help’ them better themselves for the future.

      National wants to avoid welfare… But making these kids go hungry and have to fight just for food… That is wrong. Teaching prehistoric ways…

  6. Kim dandy says:

    Feed the kids! In the land of ‘so called’ plenty our kids are starving!

    I would rather pay my taxes to a child who is hungry, than to a yacht team racing for a few weeks to win a cup? Or a flag change for that matter. Priorities please. Unfortunately with national, all this poverty, they are happily creating is in the too hard basket.

    • Andrewo says:

      Agree with you there Kim.

      The flag thing is a total boondoggle and even the Yachties (I’m one of them) are largely over the America’s Cup.

      Unfortunately you cannot pay your taxes to a child – it’s goes to the parents instead. And that’s the problem.

      • Dianne Khan Dianne Khan says:

        But we can, Andrew – that’s exactly what the Feed The Kids Bill would do, put food directly into children’s mouths. So, with that in mind, perhaps you could find a way to support it?

  7. Pete says:

    “I could argue that it’s not my job to feed a child who has no lunch.”

    I can’t find anywhere in the Education Council’s Code of Ethics for Certificated Teachers the words “duty of care” and “duty to care.”

    Most of the the stuff there is about teaching. That’s why I asked the Minister and the then Minister of Social Development about those notions.

    Are the teachers who worry about their pupils being hungry and not being in the best state to be good learners taking on more than they should? In the present regime of results on charts humanity has no mention, no place. Teachers are not paid to be humane, just to get results.

    Would the present Minister of Social Development be as obtuse and confused as her predecessor should I ask her about teachers’ duty of care? It’s Anne Tolley, so say no more.

    The Minister of Education is the same person. She has the same boss who talks of the ‘real world’. That’s a place he’s told teachers they need to get into. So no chance in asking her again.

    In the real world teachers will continue to take extra lunches. The system depends on it. In another part of the real world scumbags will scorn schools and teachers for feeding the needy kids.

    A strident unionist might suggest that each and every time there is a genuine belief that a child is at school without food or with performance affecting hunger, some state agency should be phoned. A single call for every hungry child, each time. Their phone system wouldn’t be able to cope.

    And no doubt in the House the Prime Minister, the Ministers of Education and Social welfare questioned about the number of thousands of calls would also not be able to cope, but wallow in their real world of denial.

  8. Dianne Khan Dianne Khan says:

    Many schools are doing all they can – they have a freezer of sandwiches for the kids who have nothing to eat, get fruit donated, and milk, too. But when things are made to feel like a handout, kids know, and they feel it. And these food programmes use teacher and support staff time, taking it away from education. Surely there is a better way to feed and support students so they have the best chance of learning?


 
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