PM Ardern prom­ises free lunches to 21,000 schoolkids as she vows to stop chil­dren from go­ing hungry

Fiji Sun - - Aust/Nz News - Daily Mail

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.

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