Sam Judd
Comment on the environment from nzherald.co.nz columnist Sam Judd

Sam Judd: Hungry kids? Start with waste minimisation

21 comments
Image / iStock
Image / iStock

The issue of child poverty has become a real point of contention for New Zealand.

Most of us would agree that we live in a state of relative luxury. But personally - having delivered presentations at hundreds of schools over the last six years, I have seen what happens when kids turn up without breakfast. One under-nourished child can easily destroy the educational experience for a whole classroom.

This is not okay.

While The Ministry of Social Development reports that overall hardship has dropped, the independent Children's Commissioner blames rising inequality for the record fact that over 300,000 kids are now classed as living in poverty.

Whilst many have called on the Government to 'feed the kids' and this has seen some action take place, I would have thought that rather than simply throwing taxpayer money at the problem (University of Canterbury economist Dr Eric Crampton tells us this doesn't work) that the low hanging fruit here must surely be reducing the waste of good food which is thrown away?

Radio New Zealand reported on research that says that Kiwis throw away nearly $1 billion of edible food each year.

This was calculated at 120,000 tonnes - enough to feed 260,000 people each year. This is not far from the number of 300,000 kids that are classed as being in poverty.

READ MORE: Sam Judd: How to stop the Zika virus? Don't litter

The problem seems to be linking supply with demand, so the question is, how can we do it? If it can be done cheaper than spending taxpayer money then perhaps we should have a go.

Some courageous people have taken this issue into their own hands by 'dumpster diving' - which to me exhibits a symptom of chronic waste at the hands of our supermarkets.

There are also some amazing organisations like Kaibosh in Wellington and Foodshare in Dunedin, who have rescued many tonnes of food and given it to the needy.

Whilst they have been supported by Food Safety Minister Nikki Kaye - who relaxed legislation for food rescue operations by introducing a 'Good Samaritan' clause into the Food Bill - there is still a long way to go if we need to feed 300,000 kids.

The good news is that it can be done. It just might take a bit of translation to borrow a legal framework from France. As you can see in the video here, the Frogs have used legislation to force their supermarkets to give away food that is edible, rather than put a padlock on their skip bins to stop dumpster divers as we have seen happen in New Zealand.

They believe that this will enable over 10 million people to be fed by perfectly good products that would otherwise end up in landfill.

To me this seems like an excellent solution that would save the taxpayer money, reduce truckloads of heavy waste on the roads and keep our kids healthy.

What other ideas do you have to feed kids in poverty while reducing waste?

Debate on this article is now closed.

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