Matthew Backhouse is a NZME. News Service journalist based in Auckland.

Schools get $9.5m breakfast funding boost

Children's advocates have welcomed the Government's food in schools partnership, but Act says it won't work and the Greens say more needs to be done.

Community Campaign for Food in Schools spokeswoman Deborah Morris-Travers said the programme was a pragmatic move that would help address the impacts of poverty on children.

"Every New Zealander has a part to play in addressing child poverty and meeting the needs of our nation's children and it's great to see the Government and corporates stepping up to the mark, delivering this support in partnership."

Teachers' union NZEI national president Judith Nowotarski said teachers had been coping with hungry children for a long time and they knew the effect poverty had on learning.

"Feeding kids in schools is a good start towards mitigating the effects of poverty. But we need to do a lot more than this.

"We need policies that acknowledge that many kids are unfairly failing at school because of problems associated with poverty such as overcrowded and cold housing, preventable illnesses and lack of food."

Unicef NZ national advocacy manager Barbara Lambourn said the plan was a big step in the right direction, but she hoped it signalled a wider commitment to investing in children in their early years.

Act Party leader John Banks said it was wrong for the Government to accept parental responsibility when there was already "plenty of welfare structure in place to make sure there's a couple of Weetbix and hot milk on the table every morning".

"I remember going to school hungry often, and no one wants kids going to school hungry. But unfortunately I'm not sure it's going to work, because is the next thing lunch and then dinner?

"Shouldn't we be looking at parental responsibility - shouldn't we be looking at what is going on and the trauma in the family that's causing the kids to go to school hungry?"

Green Party co-leader Metiria Turei said the announcement was a victory for those who had pushed so hard for food in schools - but the next step was to tackle the causes of child poverty.

"Breakfast will make a real change to kids' lives, but we need action on warm dry affordable housing, a living wage, decent jobs and a fair child focused welfare system."

Sanitarium general manager Pierre van Heerden said the programme was strongly supported by the schools and communities it was provided in, but schools were increasingly telling them they would like to offer the programme to needy students every day.

Mr van Heerden said the breakfasts would continue to be nutritional and the companies were committed to the programme for at least the next five years.

Fonterra global co-operative responsibility manager Carly Robinson said the programme was a community partnership, with the companies providing the product and local schools and communities managing the breakfast itself.

"It's important to acknowledge the support of these amazing volunteers, teachers and local community groups, who are actively running their breakfast clubs. Without these people, the programme wouldn't be possible."

Food and Grocery Council chief executive Katherine Rich commended the KickStart partners, saying it was another positive example of the sector's commitment to working together to give back to local New Zealand communities.

- NZ Herald

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