When I'm hungry, I get hangry pretty quickly.
I'm more prone to lash out and feel irritable. I also think more about food and little else.
My children are the same and in the mornings if I leave it too long to organise their breakfast they also get irritable and upset - simply because they are hungry.
Who can blame them?
Imagine a child with little or no breakfast, and little or nothing to take to school for lunch. They're then expected to learn, concentrate, interact with other children and be polite. They might be able to distract themselves at morning tea or lunchtime but after that I'd imagine it has a major impact on their energy and concentration levels. In my experience teaching teenagers, they often lose interest in the afternoon and not surprisingly have no enthusiasm if energy is lacking.
Ten per cent of children in New Zealand are at chronic disadvantage of poverty, struggling or absent parents and lack the means to be able to go to school and not feel hungry. Some can be found within the Bay of Plenty region. In Rotorua, according to Mayor Steve Chadwick, 41 per cent of tamariki aged 9 and under live in areas with the highest deprivation ratings.
She says we need to change that. And she's right.
Not even our treasured forests or stunning lakes can make up for our hungry and impoverished children.
That's why I've been upset at the response of some people towards the Government's new $45 million food-in-schools initiative, which will start with free lunches next year in Rotorua and Hawke's Bay.
About 5000 Year 1-8 students will receive a free lunch five days a week as part of the trial, which will expand to other schools nationally. Some people I have spoken are concerned as to how long the programme would last, how it will work and exactly how much it will cost taxpayers.
I've argued against and agreed with viewpoints different and similar to my own, such as whose responsibility is it to feed these children? Is it mine? Yours? Their parents. Or our government?
I too have questions. Does each school decide the type of food it wants to supply? Who decides for each school how much food is prepped to avoid waste? How much food will end up being wasted? Will teachers have extra work on top of their already heavy schedules or will there be an employed lunch team to take care of preparation, service and clean-up? Will the children receiving the lunches be able to help roll out this service and in turn learn more about healthy food choices, how food converts to energy and how important it is to be able to learn and concentrate when your stomach is full?
Some people will argue that if you have children you should be able to provide them with love, food, shelter, protection and care. They believe educating parents should come before further hand-outs.
But the reality is there are children who continually go hungry. Not all are as lucky as my own, who have breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Maybe some parents don't care. Maybe they care but they don't have enough money.
Regardless, it is not right their children are still hungry. I'm not proud to call New Zealand a wonderful place to live when this is the case.
This trial will come with challenges and hopefully solutions as the government aims to get it right for our most underprivileged children. There will be teething problems and ideas to explore, but the basic principle I applaud is hungry children will get a free lunch. There will be no expectations on them. They can come to school knowing that there will be food for them.
Addressing hunger in schools will also address behavioural issues and by educating this next generation, it will hopefully contribute to breaking the poverty cycle that so many know so well.
It's also about equity by giving back to the children of Aotearoa who need it most. People who speak of years gone by forget that being poor in 2019 is a far cry from being poor many years ago.
If we educate and feed the children who need it the most, we are helping them to learn today.
A local teacher said, "Stop thinking in terms of lessons to be taught to parents and start thinking of lessons to be learnt by our children, in their classrooms each and every day".
Perhaps it is only a short-term solution to a long-term problem. But I'd still much rather my taxes help feed hungry children so that they could learn and feel happy and safe at school.
Why should we punish children for the downfalls or poor choices of their parents?
No New Zealand child should go hungry.