Financial challenges, medical issues and a lack of transport.

These are some of the social issues which meant parents were sending their kids to a Whangārei kindergarten with a lack of food and clothing changes - or not sending them at all.

Manaia View Kindergarten is located in a low socio economic area in Whangārei and is now part of KidsCan's first national programme supporting children under 5 by providing food and clothing to early childhood education centres.

Head teacher Kathy Belz knows the importance food and clothing can make when it comes to children's attendance.

Advertisement

"When we opened we had a commitment to zero fees so that there wasn't a financial barrier. We thought that would be enough but we realised quickly that it wasn't," she said.

Belz said there were a range of social issues faced by some whānau which also acted as barriers. So in 2016 they started introducing meals. It began with sandwiches once a week on a Wednesday, then increased to meals three days a week and eventually to four.

"We're in a low socio economic area. Almost 100 per cent of our children identify as Māori. We have whānau who have mental health issues and a variety of issues which means we are not only supporting the tamariki but we are supporting the whānau first.

"We did a one year review which confirmed that once we started rolling out food - this is before KidsCan - our numbers did pick up."

Manaia View Kindergarten head teacher Kathy Belz with Jason Wharerau 4 from Raumanga after the kindy became part of KidsCan's first national programme supporting children under 5.
Manaia View Kindergarten head teacher Kathy Belz with Jason Wharerau 4 from Raumanga after the kindy became part of KidsCan's first national programme supporting children under 5.

It meant however the centre was using money it could have put towards other resources.

So when she found out the kindergarten was part of KidsCan's new programme - which means the kindergarten now gets five fresh meals a week, with a menu designed by internationally renowned chef Anthony Hoy Fong, and endorsed by the Heart Foundation - she was excited.

"Our whole team, we were just thinking how fantastic the opportunity is.

"Having that weight off our shoulders of having to try to do it all ourselves. Now someone else has taken that responsibility, it's huge."

Advertisement

Now the kindergarten can use money in other areas. It has hired a whānau member as the cook so teachers can stay on the floor, and bought a set of kapa haka uniforms.

The KidsCan pilot also meant children received new raincoats and shoes.

"The kids are so proud of them and our whānau were so proud of their children wearing them. Some of them were so emotional about it as well, that they've got these wonderful quality jackets, shoes and socks for them to wear and keep dry."

KidsCan is asking Kiwis to donate $30 a month to help support 1000 more children in early childhood centres.

The charity will then roll the programme out nationwide as funding allows.

People can donate at www.kidscan.org.nz.