A les­son from their learned friends


Matenga said the sug­gested pol­icy would help child­hood health prob­lems.

He said most par­ents knew what a child should be eat­ing. How­ever, it was cheaper to buy a bot­tle of fizzy and a bag of chips than to buy fruit or make a healthy sand­wich.

‘‘What would help more is if the Gov­ern­ment sub­sidised ‘real food’ [fruit and veg­eta­bles] and cre­ated a higher tax on fast food or heav­ily pro­cessed foods,’’ he said.

Other com­ments noted the best way to com­bat obe­sity was to make the healthy food more af­ford­able.

Some peo­ple ques­tioned a ban on all sug­ary drinks be­cause some chil­dren, such as those with type 1 di­a­betes, needed that op­tion.

Min­istry of Health fig­ures show a third of New Zealand chil­dren are over­weight, and about 5000 chil­dren have surgery each year to pull out rot­ten teeth.

Den­tal As­so­ci­a­tion pres­i­dent Su­san Gor­rie said the push was a sig­nif­i­cant tool in the fight against child­hood obe­sity and tooth de­cay.

‘‘Sweet drinks, such as soft drinks, fruit juice and smooth­ies, are di­rectly con­tribut­ing to DHBs hav­ing to sur­gi­cally re­move de­cayed teeth from about 5000 chil­dren a year un­der general anaes­thetic,’’ Gor­rie said.

Sug­ary drink con­sump­tion was linked to prob­lem be­hav­iour, with poor diet and nu­tri­tion as­so­ci­ated with lower aca­demic achieve­ment in chil­dren. Lawyers are dot­ted through­out a bustling class­room in a Porirua pri­mary school. One is help­ing chil­dren un­scram­ble ana­grams, an­other ex­plain­ing what hy­dro­gen is.

The chil­dren are en­thu­si­as­tic, lap­ping up the help pro­vided by the visi­tors.

Ev­ery Thurs­day, staff from law firm Min­ter El­li­son Rudd Watts head to Holy Fam­ily School in Can­nons Creek as part of a project, Home­work Help.

Stacey Shor­tall started the ini­tia­tive as a way to con­nect staff with the com­mu­nity. She picked Holy Fam­ily School at ran­dom, and it ac­cepted her of­fer to send lawyers along to help with home­work.

‘‘My idea was to try to get dif­fer­ent role mod­els in front of these kids. Not bet­ter role mod­els – they’ve got great ones from their com­mu­nity and fam­i­lies – just dif­fer­ent role mod­els who work cor­po­rate or pro­fes­sional jobs and might en­cour­age kids to think a bit dif­fer­ently about what they might want to do when they’re older.’’

Since then, the school has ex­panded the pro­gramme, re­nam­ing it a learn­ing sup­port hub, and had peo­ple com­ing in to work with the chil­dren three times a week.

Shor­tall, mean­while, is work­ing to ex­pand Home­work Help.

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