Head boy disappointed in Dunne over food bill

By Kate Shuttleworth

MP Peter Dunne will not support Hone Harawira's food in schools bill.
MP Peter Dunne will not support Hone Harawira's food in schools bill.

Naenae College head boy Tom Bird says it's a huge blow for students that independent MP Peter Dunne will not support Hone Harawira's food in schools bill.

Mr Dunne issued a statement today saying he would not support the Education (Breakfast and Lunch Programmes in Schools) Amendment Bill to a first reading tomorrow night.

Mr Bird said Naenae College's twice-a-week breakfast club had become a "melting pot'' of students from various backgrounds and made the school unique. He believed it should be extended to five days a week.

"It's extremely disappointing Mr Dunne has announced today he will not be supporting the bill. I believe just getting the bill through to the first reading would have enshrined the importance of having breakfast clubs running in schools and given hope to a lot of students who feel unimportant and not cared for.

"For students it's a huge blow not only that they're going to continue going hungry but that on an emotional level they no longer feel cared about''.

The bill has the support of Labour, the Greens, NZ First, the Maori Party, Mana and Brendan Horan, but the one vote needed to bring it over the mark will not come from Peter Dunne.

"While I have no doubt the Bill is well-intentioned, and essentially laudable, I think it is fundamentally flawed for a number of reasons,'' Mr Dunne said.

"Of course, there is a significant number of children who go to school to hungry, because they have not been properly fed at home, and of course poor nutrition has an adverse effect on learning and the subsequent development of the child.

"But that is not the issue - rather, the question is what is the best way of addressing this problem.''

Mr Harawira's proposal covers children in level 1 to 2 decile primary schools, at an estimated cost of around $100 million a year.

However, the rejuvenated KidsCan scheme, involving the Government (meeting up to 50 per cent of the costs), Fonterra and Sanitarium covers all decile 1 to 4 schools from years 1 to 13, and from 2014 will be extended to gradually include higher decile schools, Mr Dunne said in a statement.

"That is a far more comprehensive and feasible approach, which I support.''

Under Mr Harawira's plan, a paid coordinator would be appointed to each school to manage the programme to make sure it suited individual schools, and schools would be required to make sure the food met local needs.

In December 2012 the Expert Advisory Group on solutions to Child Poverty - a group comprising policy, public health and law experts - recommended that a food programme starting with decile 1-to-4 primary and intermediate schools, be implemented as one of their six initial priorities for immediate release.

In May the Government announced it would fund $1.9m a year to expand Sanitarium and Fonterra's breakfast in schools programme.

Figures show 270,000 children in New Zealand - one in four - live in poverty.

Chairman of Every Child Counts, Dennis McKinlay, said he was very disappointed Mr Dunne would not support the reading of the bill.

"We think the reading of the bill was critical because the select committee process allows for a rigorous investigation of need, how to address the need and how to monitor the response to that.''

Mr McKinlay said there were 169 countries worldwide that had food in schools programmes.

"New Zealand is the exception and a school programme is really the norm, rather than the exception.''

He said the Government's expansion of the KickStart programme does not include an effort to involve parents and build community.

"It doesn't link to curriculum learning; and it may be delivered in a way that stigmatises children.''

- APNZ

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