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.