The government has finally outlined its response to the Mana Party leader Hone Harawira’s Feed the Kids policy.
The existing KickStart Breakfast school programme is to be extended from two to five mornings a week in the country’s decile one to four schools.
Fonterra and Sanitarium will supply the food, the government will back the programme and community groups will supply the cutlery and bowls.
Prime Minister John Key and Social Development Minister Paula Bennett announced the proposal this afternoon.
The government has allocated $1.9 million a year to the programme, which matches Fonterra and Sanitarium’s contribution.
“We don’t want to replace parental responsibility, but the government, community, non-government organisations and business partners all have a shared responsibility for children,” Mrs Bennett said in announcing the scheme.
The government is also extending the existing KidsCan programme – which supplies raincoats, shoes and other basics to children – by $500,000 a year.
“Parents are responsible for feeding their children. But we can’t ignore the fact that some children turn up hungry and can’t learn on an empty stomach.
“Stepping in to provide breakfast to children is not a solution to poverty, but it does fit into a vast programme of initiatives and policies targeted to vulnerable and low income families with children.”
The move is largely a defensive one by the government.
Under fire from opponents, it was driven by the need to be seen to be doing something – a fact underlined by the inclusion of list of existing policies aimed at alleviating child poverty in today’s release, including home insulation, early childhood education, low and no interest loans, and anti-rheumatic fever initiatives.
The policy has been criticised for being something of a political sop which is unlikely to make much difference: analysis by University of Canterbury economist Eric Crampton shows similar overseas initiatives did not do what was claimed of them.