Some find Govt break­fast boost hard to di­gest

Central Leader - - NEWS -

While schools are happy to re­ceive the Govern­ment’s ex­tra sup­port for break­fast pro­grammes, the glass is still half empty for some crit­ics.

Prime Min­is­ter John Key this week an­nounced the Govern­ment would be con­tribut­ing to the Kick­Start break­fast pro­gramme which has been op­er­at­ing as a part­ner­ship be­tween Fon­terra and San­i­tar­ium since 2009.

The pro­gramme pro­vides ce­real and milk-based breakfasts to more than 570 decile 1 to 4 schools na­tion­wide.

Mr Key an­nounced the govern­ment would be putting up 50 per cent of the costs, with the other half be­ing matched by Fon­terra and San­i­tar­ium.

This con­tri­bu­tion will see the pro­gramme stretch from two to five days a week.

The cost to the Govern­ment is up to $9.5 mil­lion over a com­mit­ted five years.

How­ever Mr Key is in­sis­tent that feed­ing chil­dren is still a par­ent’s obli­ga­tion.

‘‘The Govern­ment be­lieves par­ents have the pri­mary re­spon­si­bil­ity for pro­vid­ing their kids with the basics, in­clud­ing a de­cent break­fast and a pair of shoes,’’ he says.

‘‘But the fact re­mains that some chil­dren are go­ing to school hun­gry and there­fore are not in good shape to learn.’’

Mt Roskill Gram­mar has been part of the pro­gramme since early 2010 and sup­ple­ments the Kick­Start sup­plied food with school-funded toast and jam.

Prin­ci­pal Greg Wat­son says the break­fast club is a good con­nect­ing point with stu­dents and makes the teenagers less ir­ri­ta­ble through­out the day.

The school is so pleased with the ben­e­fits that it al­ready holds break­fast five days a week, largely out of its own pocket.

‘‘It’s like op­er­at­ing a dairy, peo­ple won’t go there if they can’t be sure it’s open.’’

He says the ex­tra fund­ing will be a fan­tas­tic help to what the school is do­ing.

‘‘It’s some­thing we con­sider as an im­por­tant as­pect for some of our stu­dents and we will greatly wel­come any sup­port we can get.’’

Lobby group Auck­land Ac­tion Against Poverty says the limited ex­pan­sion of the Kick­Start pro­gramme is a ‘‘to­ken ges­ture’’.

‘‘Com­mit­ting less than $2m a year for five years is pal­try and in­sult­ing,’’ spokesman Michael Bren­ndor­fer says.

‘‘By mak­ing busi­nesses carry the can and most of the fi­nan­cial re­spon­si­bil­ity for the Kick­Start pro­gramme, National is en­trench­ing pri­vate char­ity as the way to en­sure our kids don’t go hun­gry. But poverty is a so­cial is­sue and a pub­lic­gov­ern­ment re­spon­si­bil­ity.’’

Epsom MP and ACT leader John Banks has also crit­i­cised the ini­tia­tive, call­ing it a ‘‘ Band-aid that hides the real prob­lem’’.

‘‘Rather than cre­ate a new wel­fare scheme, we should be look­ing at why kids are go­ing to school hun­gry. We should then look closely at the as­sis­tance al­ready in place,’’ Mr Banks says.

‘‘What we shouldn’t do is shift re­spon­si­bil­ity away from par­ents to govern­ment.’’

In ad­di­tion to the $9.5m to Kick­Start, the Govern­ment is grant­ing $1.5m over three years to Kid­sCan for its cloth­ing and health­care pro­grammes.

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