Simon Collins

Simon Collins is the Herald’s social issues reporter.

Foodbank school hopes for more help

Andrew Leef, 13, Hineataarau Kohu, 10, and Damon Maireroa help to pack a food parcel at Randwick Park School in Manurewa as part of its food bank programme. Photo / Sarah Ivey
Andrew Leef, 13, Hineataarau Kohu, 10, and Damon Maireroa help to pack a food parcel at Randwick Park School in Manurewa as part of its food bank programme. Photo / Sarah Ivey

A South Auckland school has started a foodbank for families who can't feed their children - and hopes for action in today's Budget to help other schools with hungry pupils.

Randwick Park School, a decile 1 school in a mainly state housing area, says it can feed needy families only thanks to volunteer Steve Farrelly, who started a breakfast club at the school in 2010.

"Three years ago we had a child from a very disturbed background who was going to counselling. The lady taking him talked to her church," said associate principal Felicity Oberlin-Brown.

"So this chap came to school and said, 'What would you like me to do?' I said, 'We'd love a breakfast club'."

Mr Farrelly and his wife committed $500 a month to start the club. Since then he has travelled from his home in Botany to lead a team of volunteers every weekday.

He has also started two sports programmes, found local businesses to provide food, and linked the school with Elim College, St Kentigern College, Farm Cove Intermediate and Bayfield School in Herne Bay, which donate food, clothing or sports coaching and in turn get help with Maori and Pacific cultural programmes.

The foodbank was started last year to help families who kept children home because they didn't have food for lunches.

School attendance rates are up, and a state-funded social worker in schools, Rochelle Hartley, works with the families to help them budget, cook and spend time with their children at breakfast and after school.

"We are trying to create a template that we can take to Government and other organisations and say, 'Hey, this works'," Mr Farrelly said.

The Government has helped. Over the past two years it has extended social workers in schools to all decile 1 to 3 schools, boosting coverage from 285 schools to 673.

An expert group appointed by Children's Commissioner Dr Russell Wills proposed six more "immediate priorities" to reduce child poverty by a "collaborative food in schools programme", low-interest loans to help families avoid crippling debts, a rental housing "warrant of fitness", more teen parent schools, using schools as community hubs, and passing on child support to beneficiaries.

Group co-chairman Professor Jonathan Boston said he expected something in the Budget about food in schools.

Housing Minister Dr Nick Smith has said his officials are working on a possible rental "warrant of fitness" scheme, but it is not know if this is ready to include in the Budget.

The 2010 Budget funded seven supported homes for teen parents and this one may add to the existing 20 teen parent schools.

Top 6 for kids

Likely
*Food in schools
*Low-interest loans

Maybe
*Rental housing warrant of fitness
*More teen parent schools
*Community service hubs

Unlikely
*Pass on child support to beneficiaries

On the web
www.breakfastclub.org.nz

- NZ Herald

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