NZ is comfortable with hungry children at school


Hunger means school kids suffering headaches, stomach cramps, nurse says

As the school nurse at Auckland Seventh-day Adventist High School, Joanne Longstaff sees a lot come through her door.

There are the kids with shoes falling off their feet – dad’s church shoes, two sizes too big – and the ones with shoes held together with tape.

Even before Covid-19 hit, she found a lot of children were coming in to her office with headaches from dehydration, stomach cramps, lethargy.

But they weren’t ill, she said: “I was finding they were just hungry kids.”

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There was an easy solution to child hunger in schools – it was called the ‘Feed the Kids Bill’ that MANA put forward, but ‘Kiwis’ rose up on their hand legs and screamed,

‘feeding the kid is a parents responsibility, not the State’s responsibility, fuck those hungry kids for being hungry!’

Middle NZ made it very clear that they were comfortable with hungry kids at schools, despite the ingrained poverty, despite the impact of neoliberalism on locking some people into poverty, despite the pittance it would cost to ensure kids were feed and could learn – now its left to token programmes by Labour and corporate charity ‘Kidscan’ who make money from this desperation.

KidsCan never sat well with me.

A private charity that raises huge money to do the things the Government should really be providing? I’ve always seen KidsCan as a symptom of broken social policy rather than the solution to child poverty.

After the ‘Feed the Kids Bill’ was killed off, KidsCan was constantly trumpeted as the way we could all pretend we’d done something meaningful on child poverty, so them not gaining any new funding sounds like the first step in resetting the obligations and responsibilities of the State.

It wasn’t just an ideological issue with KidsCan that was troubling, the culture within KidsCan was also problematic. A vicious staffing dispute in 2015 revealed...

Former operations and programmes manager Clive Young, now 63, says events at the charity before he was made redundant were not normal. He says he and others at the charity had concerns about management and spending – issues which were both raised at the trial. “You’re a charity,” he says. “You’re using donated and government money. Some of the things we saw didn’t sit well and so we questioned it.”

Some of the concerns were spending decisions. As an example, Mr Young points to the use of Corporate Cabs. It’s not the cheapest taxi option but it was the charity’s chosen mode of transport. He criticises travel bookings which saw cheaper airfares missed because of poor planning. Concerns were not only how money was spent, but what it was spent on.

There was concern about efforts to avoid public criticism over the costs of running the charity. KidsCan had suffered such criticism for its Big Night In telethon where it was claimed 86 cents in every dollar donated went on administration. The sensitivity is such in the charity sector that Mrs Chapman said in a recent interview: “I am proud to say that for every dollar spent in the last three years, 80 cents or more has gone directly into our programmes for children.”

Mr Young says during his time at KidsCan there was a “reallocation” of budgets which improved the appearance of administration spending. For example, he says his “programmes” budget partly carried the cost of $90-an-hour marketing and fundraising general manager Jan Clark. “Freight, stock – that’s a programme cost but not consultants.”

…long champagne lunches on the Waterfront and parties with taxi’s home to Albany for everyone seems to be at odds with the grim reality of child poverty.

KidsCan has been lauded because it stepped in when the Government refused to do anything meaningful and that was acceptable to the majority of NZers who argue that free lunches or shoes or raincoats from the State will let parents off the hook.

It’s time the State stood up and took on these obligations, relying on a Charity that has some problematic culture issues doesn’t seem like a solution.

Hone Harawira and MANA were right then, and they’re still right now!

It’s time to Feed the Kids you selfish pricks!


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  1. Too many people don’t know NZs history, in times of need our government helped schools and Kindergartens to provide food and drink for kids. Our past governments helped families into home ownership, some generations received free tertiary education among other things. But there is this nasty divisive streak in our country, many people have become self centered and some have an every man for himself type of attitude. Given we are in the midst of a pandemic these types of attitudes are and will be detrimental to us succeeding as a country.

  2. The government is feeding someone, its the rich instead of the kids. Maybe the money for feeding the kids will fall out of the sky and that their trickle down theory.

    • Covid is pa. Milk used to trickle down. In the school days of my childhood, all primary school children were provided with free milk at morning break. I think free apples may have been provided also.

      Margaret Thatcher abolished school milk in Brit schools, hence her moniker, Margaret Thatcher, Milk Snatcher.
      I don’t know who stopped our children from receiving the nourishment of milk, but from my hazy knowledge of the time frame in which it occurred, I think it must have been a National Government. Probably the same sociopaths who did away with routine school dental clinics – but hey – more dosh for the dentists.

      Apparently one third of New Zealand’s annual apple crop goes to waste – the growers aren’t bothered about it.
      It was suggested to me that those apples could go to children, but it isn’t hard to see how government bureaucracy could stymie that.

      The thing is, there’s more money for Oravida/whoever selling milk to China, whereas investing in our children’s future incurs cost, and not doing so incurs even greater cost along the track, but the Treasury boys appear incapable of thinking beyond the here and now.

      I know of greater profligate spending by Canteen, but decline to elaborate about it.

      Of course children should be clothed and fed. All over New Zealand good people are feeding kids, but these good people are not the Government, because Government are intimidated by the bad people who dump on kids whose parents, one way or another, do not provide for them.It could be called bullying, it could be called evil, but it can definitely be called sick.

      … While back when Porirua mums started making packs of sandwiches for hungry children, at least one jerk wrote to the paper, complaining that they contained luncheon sausage. Pretty sure the mums were funding it themselves, and if the whingers wanted avocado and ham sandwiches there was nothing to stop them from providing them themselves…

      • Kia ora
        6 million trays of kiwifruit were dumped last year as well.
        That’s about 180 million kiwi fruit.
        Every school child could have had one of those every day, for a year.
        But the reason given was to maximise export profits.
        It is quite sick the society we live in.

        • Yep. Interesting. The NZ potato shortage in 1956 was caused by dumping to keep prices up, and trying to research it, I see there was also one in 1951. I think the potatoes were dumped in South Island river beds.

          1956 introduced my mother to rice as a bland non-pudding. We’d always grown spuds which were a huge staple in the Kiwi diet, but relocated, and got caught out. The loss of potatoes back then, would have been almost as bad as Asia without rice. Meat was cheap though, and families may have had more vegetable gardens than they seem to now.

          Those dumped Kiwi fruit could have been dumped anywhere – like on schools. – and govt will have been complicit in the dumping. But it looks more likely to have perhaps been to keep all profits up, rather than just export profits up. Other countries do similar; there is enough food ( I think ) to feed the world, but there’s not global govt mechanisms to do so, nor the will. Killing people is ever so much simpler, and arms manufacturers earn much bigger bucks.

    • Covid is pa. Correction – my error. Free milk in New Zealand schools was introduced by the Labour Govt in 1937, and stopped by Keith Holyoake’s National Govt in 1967.

      It was reintroduced in 2013, not by government, but by Fonterra, and as far as I know, it is still provided. So it was the NZ dairy farmers’ co-op who decided to address the well being of children again.

      The National Govt stopped it because they said that it was too costly, and apparently people questioned the health benefits of milk. Apples appear to have been a temporary measure in and around the WW2 years.

      I’ve long said that state houses should be planted out with fruit trees, and I don’t see why schools can’t be either. Some Intermediate Schools had children’s garden and poultry projects going back in the 1950’s, and other schools have done similar, but it appears to be the initiative of local headmasters and school committees, rather than government policy. My local pre-school has hens that lay eggs, and the littlies love the chooks.

      One local supermarket provides a bin of free fruit for children, and the same supermarket runs a permanent collection trolley for food donations. It’s always loaded.

  3. All school kids should be supplied with at govt expense a full uniform each year (with jerseys etc made from NZ wool and shoes from NZ leather) and also breakfast and lunch every day.
    The simple fact is that a lot of parents either cannot or are simply too useless to ensure their kids are clothed and fed as they should be and our acceptance of kids having to sit cold and hungry watching others in their class at lunchtime eating their own lunches etc is a f**king disgrace (and if you don’t accept that must cause incalculable resentment and harm you are either an arsehole or an idiot).

  4. Proponents of the neo-liberal state (advocating as they do for minimal gummint) chant “with rights come responsibilities”.
    They seem to forget – Labour in particular – that the slogan is as true for the civil service and the political classes as it is for the plebian voter.
    NGOs and philanthropy may have a place, but let’s not call ourselves a civilised 1st whurl democracy when we have to rely on charities, maraes and Sikh temples to feed kids, let alone adults.
    And it’s the 21st century. Why do we have an ambulance service that relies on the goodwill of its employees and charity.
    Time to give up the pretense.
    It’s easy to see why people are becoming cynical about supposed ‘democracies’ that don’t actually work for the people they purport to represent. I prefer to think that it’s a side-effect of neoliberalism because I can’t see that its architects were actually that clever

  5. Well James Brown I think your comment is uncalled for and I am no arsehole or idiot in fact you are for making such a dumb comment without looking at the reasons for this becoming so widespread. There is a lot of resentment in our country and some of it is based on pure ignorance. What about all the resentment when our Maori people get a treaty pay out and when we ask for our own services cause mainstream is failing us. And what about the resentment when we ask for our land back and our water rights (the water nobody owns) that is being bottled by foreigners and being sold back to us, are all those people arseholes and idiots too? And what about all those who tell us how we should spend our pittance land settlements (looking after our peoples health and housing needs) when many of us pay taxes and are entitled to be looked after just the same as everyone else and not be treated like second class citizens. Yes there are some useless parents there always will be but the incalculable resentment shit is not needed.

    • Covid is pa – the ‘incalculable resentment and harm’ comment I made earlier was in reference to how I imagine the kids with no lunch etc must feel when watching other kids in their class as they eat their own lunches when they have none of their own (resentment towards to those kids with more than them / towards society as a whole etc) and the harm caused by this resentment manifesting itself in various ways (anger / jealousy / possibly theft and violence) . .

  6. You know what Martyn, there always seems to be reasons to give free stuff/bailouts to rich folks – however thin the reasoning.

    On the reserve side:

    There always seems to be reasons to NOT give stuff/money to poor folks – however thin the reasoning.

    Strange, isn’t it?

  7. In Whangārei, the Hare Krishna devotees do a thousand lunches per week for several local schools. The middle classes want to punish the parents who they see as “dirty filthy bennies”! But, the fact is around 40% of NZ kids affected by not enough food, have primary caregivers in work. Could low wage, precarious work perhaps be a problem here? Poverty is in reality about lack of money and resources–not poor budgeting or neglect.

    Feed the kids now! that we have to even discuss this here on TDB when the new Govt. has such an unencumbered majority shows yet again that our PM is not going to shift to actual “Kindness” without significant pressure. She will respect “Roger’n’Ruth’s” toxic legacy till the direct action starts–mark my words.

    What say you Jacinda Fans?

  8. Writing from my NZRN perspective, the only milk humans should drink is mother’s breast milk. All other infant animals receive ONLY that from their mothers. Once the infant is weaned, thereafter the young animal drinks ONLY water. A major health problem that arises in adulthood is arthritis – due IMO, from excess calcium from needless cows’ milk. Cows milk is meant for baby cows. Sadly, more children’s health problems develop due to the excess of sugary foods/drinks in most children’s diets. Saturated animal fat is demonised in most peoples’ diets, yet as a species, our brain become enlarged due in large measure to the saturated fat our ancestors ate. All carbohydrates become sugar in the human body. Cut out most all junk food, eat more saturated fat, including avocado fat (it is very “filling” & one doesn’t experience the “need” for snacks. Give water to your children for their fluid needs.

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