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I was ap­palled when read­ing an ex­pose by a col­league on the high­sugar, zero good­ness $2 ‘‘lunch packs’’ avail­able in dairies in poorer parts of Auck­land.

These hideous packs con­tained a mix­ture of chip­pies, bis­cuits and sug­ary cor­dials, and cost be­tween $2 and $3.50.

Read­ers were as shocked as me, but one re­sponse got me think­ing.

It was the claim that you couldn’t give the kids lunch for $2.

Every­one in my fam­ily takes lunch to school/work, and I don’t reckon we spend much more than that.

Lunches need to vary in bulk depend­ing on the age of the child, but the ba­sic in­gre­di­ents aren’t ex­pen­sive: sand­wiches, some fruit and some vege, and (shock) tap wa­ter in a reusable bot­tle.

What’s in a $2 lunch?

Well, ac­tu­ally, quite a lot.

I just popped down­stairs to Count­down to get a bit of a pric­ing for the base in­gre­di­ents of our chil­dren’s lunches: Fruit, bread, Healthy lunch, healthy kids

Fruit, bread and veges, not high­sugar snacks

Tap wa­ter, not soft drinks

car­rot (and cu­cum­ber) and sand­wich.

Ba­nana: 30 cents (ap­ples are more pop­u­lar in our house­hold). Car­rot: 28 cents.

One fifth of loaf of brown bread: 80 cents.

That would leave 62 cents-worth of spreads or fill­ings like cheese, peanut but­ter and mar­mite, un­less you just want to grate the car­rot in, which ac­tu­ally makes a half-de­cent fill­ing.

The 62 cents can then be spent on some­thing else. Yoghurts were on spe­cial for $3.80 for a pack of six.

This is the first time I have priced out chil­dren’s lunches, and I ad­mit, what I have just sketched out doesn’t earn you brag­ging rights in the play­ground.

My chil­dren tell me some of their peers get sweets in their lunches ev­ery day, and one child even gets KFC de­liv­ered by his grand­par­ents at lunchtime.

Our lunches are ‘‘im­proved’’ reg­u­larly by my el­der daugh­ter, who is a home-bak­ing whizz, and the ad­di­tion of a few sea­weed crack­ers, which sell for $2 a pack usu­ally.

Roughly each girl gets about 24 cents a day of these crack­ers, which usu­ally get put in­side the sand­wich to give it crunch.

Fac­tor the home-bak­ing in, and I reckon we spend closer to $3 than $2, but no­body would starve if that didn’t hap­pen.

But this tells only half the story. Some fam­i­lies live on very low in­comes.

If you have a fam­ily of four, and your food bud­get is $60 or less, you do not have $20 to spend on 10 of the 84 meals your fam­ily needs each week.

Dar­ryl Evans from Man­gere Bud­get­ing Ser­vice tells me some fam­i­lies have that, or less, to spend on gro­ceries.

There’s some­thing else which we, the well-fed, may not re­alise.

Scarcity is now recog­nised to have an im­pact on peo­ple’s be­hav­iour.

Be­ing in need changes the way peo­ple think. It’s no ex­cuse, but it makes plan­ning harder.

In 2009, a Min­istry of Health food se­cu­rity sur­vey found food ran out due to lack of money ‘‘reg­u­larly’’ in 25 house­holds in ev­ery thou­sand, and ‘‘some­times’’ in 115 in ev­ery thou­sand.

Since then rents have risen as a pro­por­tion of in­comes.

Stor­ing and ra­tion­ing food in such house­holds is a chal­lenge, even if your brain hasn’t been hi­jacked by scarcity


The ‘‘lunch pack’’ $2 buys you from one shop in Glen Innes, Auck­land.

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