Reporter for the New Zealand Herald

Hunger hits middle-class students too

School staff are dipping into their own pockets to feed teenagers at a middle-class Auckland college, as growing numbers of students turn up hungry.

The situation echoes survey findings from last year pointing to growing poverty in mid-decile schools.

Rutherford College principal Gary Moore has appealed to programme Eat My Lunch for help, and food from cooking classes is used to fill empty stomachs. He and up to 20 of his staff also fork out daily to buy food or replace kids' poor-quality lunches, which include pies and soft drinks.

Mr Moore spends an average of $10 a week at the 1300-pupil decile 5 secondary school. Total contributions from teachers and other staff amount to about $8000 a year.

"Staff will dip into their pockets for the kids because we want them to succeed," Mr Moore said. "It can be a balancing act."

The public perception that only kids at low-decile schools went without food was wrong, he said.

As house prices crept up, so did poverty.

"Because Te Atatu is becoming more affluent the instinct is to think that the problem is not there. And I think that makes it even harder for the kids to put their hands up for help.

"It'll be the same in some decile 10 schools - there will be some kids that are genuinely missing out."

Organisations such as Kickstart - which provides breakfast in schools - had helped out for a period but many students felt embarrassed about asking for help, Mr Moore said.

He hoped Eat My Lunch, which feeds a hungry Kiwi kid for every lunch bought, would be able to add the college to its list of recipients.

Secondary Principals' Association president Sandy Pasley said: "Just because schools are higher decile, it doesn't mean all the kids come from wealthy families. Schools need to find ways to support students where they can and often the support networks are better structured in the lower decile schools."

Eat My Lunch founder Lisa King said more people needed to get on board with buying lunches if the business was to support more schools. The company makes about 6000 lunches for 32 schools in Auckland and Hamilton.

Last year, a Principals' Federation survey found some schools have up to 80 per cent of students arriving without food each week.

- NZ Herald

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