I got the best Father's Day present this weekend. My youngest lad, 19-year-old Ben, came back from university for a week at home during a mid-semester break. He's only a fifth of our family but having him home doubles the energy of the house.
So when Ben comes home he only has a few demands. Make sure there are 24 eggs and a slew of cold meats in the house and let's have some hearty home-cooked meals. He comes home for family but I think he really comes home to eat.
Life as a second-year student, flatting in Wellington is tight. No free tertiary for this boy he's one year too old. No hostels because he's in his second year. High rents because properties are tight. It means the budget is brutal.
Ben gets through by bulk buying veggies at the Victoria Street carpark Sunday market. Meat disappears from his budget. When he arrives home his only stipulation is no tomato-based dishes because the pasta and can of tomatoes diet gets tedious when it's your staple.
I thought about this when I heard two conflicting stories this morning:
Firstly, Kiwi families are ordering more takeaways and eating out more than ever before, at the expense of family meals at home according to a study released today by the Restaurant Association. Nationwide sales in the hospitality industry over the past year increased by 3.6 per cent to exceed $11.2 billion. Takeaway food recorded the highest growth at 5.7 per cent, or an increase in annual sales of $148 million.
At the same time, grocery sales are slowing - a result, the report suggests, of the traditional family meal at home becoming less popular. Only 52 per cent of parents now eat at home every night, according to another recent survey.
Well, that's nice for half our families who are either doing very well or a budgeting terribly. It's certainly not my family's reality. I was brought up to be very frugal on hospitality. We'd be hard pressed to have a meal out once a month. It's certainly not my son's reality.
And then there's the story of Papakura mother-of-two Louise who feeds her family on less than $60 a week despite working as a teacher aide at a local school and living in a house shared with extended whanau. There are days of no dinner and certainly no meals out.
In the same article, the CEO of KidsCan Julie Chapman says they are now offering meals in 732 schools. She says that's an astounding figure and the fact that the problem is growing is very concerning.
Two vastly different stories on the same day, in the same paper showing two vastly different New Zealand's over the very basics of life - food. And I wonder if either side comprehends the other.