Editorial: Hungry kids our shame

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The issue of children going hungry, and providing a solution, is complex.

Saturday's Bay of Plenty Times Weekend contained a special report that examined the controversial Mana Party bill to provide free breakfasts and lunches in all decile one and two schools.

Editorial writer Annemarie Quill wrote about this issue last week but, after reading our weekend coverage, I felt I needed to add my view.

The Mana Party proposal is controversial because principals and others are divided over whether it is fair and correct.

Principals such as Otumoetai College's Dave Randell, Gate Pa's Richard Inder and Brookfield School's Robert Hyndman have reservations.

Mr Randell says targeting low-decile schools only is too broad and will miss hungry children at higher-decile schools. Some families in lower-decile areas are able to feed their children. Mr Randell also believes the roles of parents and schools are becoming confused.

Mr Hyndman says the bill is well intentioned, but does not address underlying poverty causes.

But Jan Tinetti, of decile-one school Merivale, understandably sees it differently. Her school would benefit from such a law change and she says it is a simple matter of feeding children who need it so they are healthy and can have the best opportunity at learning.

Mr Randell and Mr Inder are correct in saying under the bill some children would miss out while others who do not need help would receive it. But Ms Tinetti puts up a powerful argument. Is this not just a simple matter of feeding vulnerable, hungry kids?

It is a disgrace we have child poverty and the thought of young children going hungry pains me. These children have a right to food so they can concentrate, learn and have a fulfilling life.

Parents are ultimately responsible. Some ignore their responsibilities and spend money on alcohol, cigarettes, drugs and gambling. But others are genuinely so poor they struggle to feed their children.

Either way, it is unacceptable for children to go hungry and we need to look after these vulnerable people. This bill is commendable. Yes, it has faults but I challenge those in authority to come up with a better idea.

The Government needs to put more money into fixing the problem.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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