I've never known what it is like to be hungry, let alone starving. Sure, I've announced a million times that "I'm hungry" or "I'm starving". But that has always been simply an indication that I want something to eat or that I'm looking forward to my next meal.
I've never known what it is like to have empty food cupboards. All my life there has always been food in the fridge and the freezer and the larder.
In fact, right now there is enough food in our freezer and pantry to keep us fed for several days, if not weeks, at a pinch if some sort of disaster struck.
Even in my childhood - the years of World War II and after when food was rationed and you had to have a coupon to buy pretty much everything - there was always enough to eat; sometimes just enough but we always ate well.
Then there was the half-pint of milk and the apple we all received in primary school. Perhaps that's why I've never drunk milk since, except in milkshakes or in a rare cup
There was, of course, poverty in those days, too. Though I was childishly unaware of it, there must have been. Why else would my parents have told so often the story about the little girl who went to the butcher's shop and asked for "sixpence worth of cat's meat - and please don't drop it on the floor 'cause my mum wants to make a stew"?
We have known for decades that some children are sent to school without breakfast (or kept at home because there is no food) but the "Our Hungry Kids" series in the Herald this week, by Simon Collins and Elizabeth Binning, brings the extent of the problem crashing home.
That more than 40,000 children turn up at school hungry each day is a national disgrace, a tragedy of epic proportion, a reason not just for dismay but for anger.
How the hell did we ever let the situation get this bad? And why do we rely on private charities to feed these kids rather than through Government support?
The Child Poverty Action Group says that taxpayers should pay for a part-time co-ordinator for three hours a day in every decile 1 and 2 primary and intermediate school to organise food supplies and volunteers to make sure children get breakfast.
It says this would cost $6.7 million a year if charities and other donors provided the food, or up to $14 million if schools had to buy the food. Only $14 million? In today's economy that's merely pocket money.
One of the most astonishing things to come out of the series so far is the news that the Australian-owned Countdown (Woolworths/Foodtown) supermarket chain has withdrawn its sponsorship of the most comprehensive breakfast-in-schools programme, run by the Red Cross, which has served more than 720,000 breakfasts to thousands of children in the past five years.
A Countdown spokesman said the company had given more than $1 million in food and other help to the Red Cross since the programme began. But the supermarket chain was changing its priorities.
Now what, I ask, could be a more urgent priority than helping to feed hungry kids?
The cost, a mere $200,000 a year for five years, is but an infinitesimal fraction of that chain's daily profits. It will be interesting to see what the Countdown spokesman's "developing a new programme that features the needs of the broader community" really means. Perhaps our New Zealand-owned supermarket chain could take up the challenge.
The series so far has, of course, generated the sort of reaction we have come to expect from many in today's society. To our shame, a poll on nzherald.co.nz which asked, "Should the Government underwrite breakfast programmes in all NZ's 463 decile 1 and 2 primary and intermediate schools?" brought only a 51 per cent "yes" against a 49 per cent "no".
The widely held view is that parents are to blame, that they spend their money on booze, smokes and other drugs and let their children starve, and that food vouchers should be given to beneficiaries instead of cash.
It's the old "I pay my taxes and that's enough" philosophy.
But what do we do about hungry kids in the meantime? Let them starve?
There was an item in our local newspaper the other day in which the Salvation Army foodbank reported that some people were auctioning off in pubs the food parcels they were given, and spending the money on booze. A food vouchers raffle, anyone?
There is no doubt that many of the parents of hungry kids are simply incapable of managing anything, even the smallest amount of money. They are what broadcaster Michael Laws quite rightly calls the "ferals" of our society.
They may be irredeemable, but their children are not. And for them, we must all make ourselves responsible.