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Govt toes Harawira's kiddie kai line

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.

More by Rob Hosking

Comments and questions

Why are iwi and local tribes who have had hundreds of millions in grants and settlements not fronting up and contributing any money to help with the costs of these programmes?

There is no 'trickle down effect'.

Because there are plenty of pakeha children whose parents can't afford or won't give their children breakfast. The government pays for all children in need.

The problem is disproportionately Maori in the lower decile schools though - that's the point. And it doesn't answer the question about why treaty settlement funds are not applied to help provide a solution.

What a paltry sum being given by our pollies, yet how many millions are wasted on so-called inquiries into things they balls up such as Novapay.
How about the pollies donate their free travel for a year and feed the children properly.
Well, it's official - we are a Third World country!

I do believe a Third World country would have a lareger military that most of the money is spent on.

With the exception of Costa Rica, perhaps. Costa Rica constitutionally abolished its army permanently in 1949.

The only way for the govt. to have money to give is to take it from someone else. Make the parents cough up. That's what WFF is for.

Please explain why it's my problem or responsibility to pick up the tab for feeding the kids of these negligent parents.

Because neglected kids become neglected adults. It could be your car they steal, or house they rob, or grandmother who is hit over the head for her purse. Then again this programme to feed children may have absolutely no effect. Still at approximately 50 cents each per annum, I'm willing to give it a go. Do you want me to pay yours, too? Great work from National, by the way...

They will still do all the above, but just on a full stomach! Watch and see.

That's the sort of attitude that stops us from making any real progress with regards to poverty and crime - the "throw your arms up", "crims will always be crims" attitude.
Education is the key and getting involved with potential criminals when they are young is when you can make a real difference. I personally agree with the poster before and think it's at least worth giving a try - 50c each per annum is fine by me to even make an attempt at breaking negligence cycles.

So what you are describing is social extortion. Feed them so they won't rob us. Great long-term strategy.

Its not your responsibility, its the parents, I agree. What is your solution? Not to feed them? The kids will go hungry... And its not their fault now is it...

Its not your responsibility, its the parents, I agree. What is your solution? Not to feed them? The kids will go hungry... And its not their fault now is it...

There are substantial welfare payments to the parents of the children in most need, ergo the kids in decile 1 to 4 schools. Rather than just throwing more money at the same problem, perhaps an investigation and help supplied at the source of the problem.
If a family receives X$ what is this spent on? How much goes to fast food, cigarettes, etc?. How much is spent at the corner shop or petrol station buying food rather than the supermarket, where it's cheaper? Basic life skills and budgeting needs to be taught or the next step is clothing in schools. Yes, I know that this is already happening at another level but there will be a call for the government to clothe these children as what they have is not suitable. Are the parents of these children on a total free ride?
When New Zealanders are asked, if these children should be fed the overwhelming answer is yes. No one wants the kids to suffer, but many also want the parents to be responsible. If this is just a handout with no responsibility on the parents then watch this area of welfare grow.
This is where the real problem lies in NZ - not drilling for oil, not dairy farming, selling land to Chinese, selling the power companies - it's welfare.
Welfare by a few is consuming this country’s wealth. Whichever political party has the answer will have the vote of New Zealand.

And transferring the taxpayers' wealth to a small number of National Party members is not welfare? Concentrate on the real erosion of wealth in this country, like a broken export industry, austerity government policies, basic inputs priced too high and so on. No one likes welfare bludgers but they are a small percentage.

Please supply evidence of taxes being transferred to National party members. This needs investigation..

What are these "substantial" welfare payments you talk about? $170 a week unemployment benefit? And what is your experience of living of these "substantial" sums?

Hungry children in the NZ context is a proxy for "neglected / abused children" when we have such an overly-generous welfare system.

Real poverty is like what is found in the slums of India or Bangladesh.

The issue NZ has is irresponsible parents electing to spent limited welfare funds on all kinds of other things instead of taking responsibility for their dependants in the first place. So for a parent sending their dependants to school unfed, should they be prosecuted for child abuse and wilful neglect?

I hope the "free food in schools" programme is linked to another programme for the parents of the kiddies needing to be fed - with the programme giving these parents a free education on matters such as budgeting skills, how to make bread, how to make milk from milk powder and why a parent's first and only real priority is their dependants that they need to take personal responsibility for.

Spoken like a person with no real idea of what they are commenting on. The mention of making bread gives that a way. I'm sure Mongrel Mob fathers will line up for that. You got me thinking, though... how does one make milk from milk powder? I'm picking it has something to do with mixing it with a liquid of some sort, but that's just a guess.

Correct, Paul N.
About $10 makes about 10 litres of milk, I'm told. But not everyone knows that, nor everyone prepared to get off their butts and do it when it's so much easier just to buy it made up already.

But it's not just one thing in isolation that will make a difference to a household budget, it's lots of little things all done together. That, and prioritising nutrition for one's dependants over booze and ciggies also.

So any hungry kids not receiving breakfast who are "neglected / abused" since we have such an "overly-generous welfasre system". What planet do you live on? Please explain how a single parent with say two kids under seven lives off a benefit? Can't tell me? Because you don't know and have never ever had to.

What planet are you on? If you can't afford to feed them then stop having kids! Simple really.

Weetbix and milk... you call that suitable nutrition? Come on. We need a lunch programme in schools that guarantees our kids a minimum level of acceptable nutrition on a daily basis no matter what, like other civilised countries. Weetbix and milk doesn't cut it. I would be laughing if it wasn't so serious.

Weetbix and milk is perfectly ok and probably a lot better than the sugar saturated muck that many eat nowadays. That was exactly what we had as kids and obviously it produced a much better outcome than whatever you had.

Oh Alan. Why did you need to add that last comment. Quite unnecessary and not at all scientific.

Come on! Next you'll be wanting the government to be running meals-on-wheels home to the kids at night as well. How many other civilised countries feed kids like this? I know child nutrition is important but the responsibility must be sheeted home to the parents.

Yes, and pay more taxes like other countries, and take away all parental responsibilities (yes, I know many parents do not know how to take care of kids, they only know how to make them) and paid parental leave and ... and ... and ... and when will it stop?

Everyone loves a free ride! Hip hip hoooray.

Come on. In the Great Depression parents went to extraordinary and heroic lengths to feed, clothe and house their kids. Today's parents have it sweet by comparison, but they have been brought up in a me, me, me society with a sense of entitlement to all the trappings of modern lives. The money doesn't stretch but they are no longer able to prioritise their needs and wants, or, sadly, to differentiate between the two. So, the kids suffer.
Of course we have to feed our children, and if the parents are inept or incapable, the state must step in. But we have to also address the wider problem of the causes of child neglect and poverty. The politician who tackles this without worrying about PC-ness has my vote.

What does this do to improve the poor quality of parenting that clearly exists? It is clear from all the evidence that kids learn better when they have engaged parents, hungry or not!

Bypassing the existing older generation altogether means the funds can be directed into those areas most likely to incorporate change; namely, the younger generation. Break the cycle. Show these children someone cares enough to feed them and they may pass it on.
or not...

If you look at the Otago University studies on cost-effective nutrition for families on a tight budget, Weetbix and milk scores very highly on both its nutritional benefits and its cost-effectiveness. There could be much worse 'role modelling' - after all, if simply watching TV converts kids to demanding (and in some cases getting) egg McMuffins and Big Macs for breakfast, just think what actually giving them real Weetbix and milk might do for their future demands on their parents.

When I was a kid, Wheetbix/milk was the staple, breakfast diet for the masses and (as someone commented above), most of us turned out just fine. Interestingly, it was a time that Weetbix was advertised regularly on TV and was (if I remember correctly), advertised regularly up until about a decade or, so ago and about when this nonsense of so-called starving chlidren began to emerge. Spot the link perhaps..?? .

Far too many patronising comments from smug, well off, well fed people for my liking.

Boo hoo. Go and pump out another kid for us all to feed then.

Do you mean from well brought up, cared for kids who were actually taught something by their parents? Now is that what you actually mean?

While being very sympathetic to the problem this policy will merely add fuel to the fire, encouraging more negligence and abuse.
It will have the totally opposite affect to whats intended.

Agree. This is the ambulance at the bottom of the cliff. A Band-Aid at best.

Much better would be for these parents to undergo education and training in how a household budget works, how to make and grow your own food, and how to accept responsibility for their actions and dependants - as well as feeding the hungry kids.

A parent not prepared to learn or undertake training in these matters should be considered a willingly negligent parent and prosecuted as such as a result. It's not rocket science!

But I also suspect a lot of this "poverty" is a left-leaning MSM construct to dovetail nicely into L&G's social policies.

Because if there really was accurate accounts of not enough money for food for families, TV3 and Campbell Live would be proving it to us with actual examples of a family's budget, demonstrating to NZ just how little is left over to spend on food. Yes, there will be some in that situation, but the cynic in me can't help but wonder why Campbell Live can't show us families that would be prepared to "open up the books" to demonstrate their prudent management of their families income.
And as such, with all the other left-leaning media beat-ups we've had, one can't help but take what they say with a huge grain of salt, especially when NZ Inc has such a generous welfare system that even caters for "emergency grants" for things like food when really needed. So why do neglected kids go hungry, then?

Maybe the few who are actually in this situation are being prostituted by the leftie MSM to help push their agenda - kinda like the Mr Cecil Walker woe is me situation MUNZ tried to shop to the MSM, yet the exact truth was the complete opposite of the deceit the unions tried pushing.

And with the majority of MSM constantly being anti-National/Key, coupled with desperation and a very desperate L&G to get any kind of traction in the polls, it wouldn't surprise me that those corrupt individuals within Labour / unions would resort to doing/saying anything to push their agendas with the help of complicit media, which seems to be trying to get into Labour as politicians.

Some very cosy / nepotism going on between the left and plenty of MSM... and co-ordinated, orchestrated media beat-ups are a result.

I challenge Campbell Live to find us families prepared to show us all on live TV where their welfare budget is spent and on what. Then NZ Inc can really see for itself just how much of an issue this really is, or if it's just a leftie MSM beat-up trying to manufacture a narrative to fit an agenda?

"What do you mean you're ready for tea - you had breakfast at school, didn't you? Now shut-up and watch the DVD."

Yeah, breakfast in schools. More free stuff!

You must be joking!
The Nats government are putting $9.5 million into poor kids kai over five years.
They put $10.5 million additional into rich kids' private schools in the last year alone.
That shows zippo concern for the plight of the poor kids.

Just more money to invest in MRP. "May as well spend it at the casino, mum."