PM Ardern promises free lunches to 21,000 schoolkids as she vows to stop children from going hungry
New Zealand school children will be given free lunches every day as the government vows to stop young people going hungry.
The new programme will be rolled out across 30 schools around the country in 2020 and feed around 5000 students between Year 1 and Year 8. That reach is only expected to grow the following year with plans to feed as many as 21,000 children across 120 schools. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced the news during a visit to Kaitao Intermediate School in Rotorua on Thursday.
“Do we want our kids to go hungry?” Ms Ardern asked.
“The obvious answer is no. That’s why the Government is rolling this school lunch programme out to the kids in New Zealand who need our support the most.” The lunch programme is just one
of 75 initiatives of the Child and Youth Wellbeing Strategy in a bid to tamp down on child poverty and provide better support services. “Reducing child poverty is a key goal of this Government and the $NZ$5.5 billion families package and initiatives in the wellbeing budget will raise 50,000-74,000 children out of poverty,” Ms Ardern said.
The New Zealand leader said that children were interviewed during the consultation stage of the strategy. She revealed a large number admitted an empty stomach was a barrier to their learning. “That was heart-breaking to hear and this prototype starts to ensure children are fed and have the best chance to succeed,” she said.
“You simply can’t learn distracted by an empty stomach. Many families in New Zealand struggle to provide enough food for their children. A healthy lunch every day will help to alleviate one of the worst aspects of deprivation for kids hunger.”
Though National education spokesperson Nikki Kaye told the
NZ Herald she believed the programme was badly designed. She argued many schools weren’t equipped with big enough kitchens necessary to carry out the food preparations or store it for that matter.
Ms Kaye claimed minimal funding had been provided for equipment and that the onus would fall onto the school to make sure the children were fed.
“If this is the beginning of a universal free lunch programme for all schools, this would cost hundreds of millions and take away the autonomy of parents to provide lunch for their children,” she said.
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern with schoolchildren at Kaitao Intermediate School in Rotorua.