Breakfast in schools: it just doesn't work

Often it doesn't increase the odds that kids eat breakfast at all (TV3)
Eric Crampton

GUEST COMMENT: A few months ago, Social Service Providers Aotearoa asked me to review the literature on school breakfast programmes and provide an assessment of whether public funding of school breakfast programmes offered value for money.

I spoke on the issue in Wellington and in Christchurch in February. As the government seems to be looking at the Mana Party's proposals around food in schools (a package will be announced in a fortnight), it's worth posting a summary of the review here.

I was only looking at school breakfast programmes, and so I can't here comment on school lunch programmes. I'm not sure why we'd expect results to vary greatly, but it's worth having the caveat.

On my best read of the literature, it's hard to make a case for that we'd get any great benefit from the programmes.

Rather, we often find that they don't even increase the odds that kids eat breakfast at all.

Many shift breakfast from at-home to at-school.

Among those who hadn't bothered with breakfast before the programme, not many wind up starting when schools provide it.

You can then get kids reporting that they're less hungry as consequence of the programmes, but it's awfully hard to reject that the main thing going on is that kids are eating at 9 at school instead of at 7 at home and are consequently less hungry when asked at 11.

You can get some substantial results from school breakfast programmes in third world countries. But even there we need to watch for displacement effects: the benefit of the programmes is often the implicit income subsidy provided. In those cases, we can see evidence of families cutting back on food expenditures for the kid getting breakfast at school in favour of spending on the other kids; in the link provided, there's reasonable crowding out in a UK lunch programme. And if that's the benefit, cutting a cheque to the families instead just might be better.

In all the studies, I wish that there were a control group where the parents were just given cash equivalent to the per-student cost of putting on the programme. All of these kinds of programmes should be assessed against that kind of counterfactual to establish whether we're getting benefits from the programme, or from the implicit income transfer.

Here are a few typical pieces.

Devaney and Fraker, 1989, found that school breakfast programmes did not increase the likelihood of kids' eating breakfast at all. It did increase calcium intake and reduce consumption of cholesterol and iron - breakfasts provided at school differed from those they'd be getting at home.

Gleason, 1995, similarly found that school breakfast programmes did not influence the likelihood of students' eating breakfast.

Alderman and Bundy, 2011, concluded that food in schools isn't a great investment but could complement other investments - they focused on developing countries.

Bhattacharya, Currie and Haider, 2006, seems to be the touchstone for those advocating school breakfast programmes. They found improved nutritional outcomes in blood serum tests of kids participating in school breakfast programmes compared to the same kids during school holidays when they weren't getting the school breakfasts. But they also found no effect on the likelihood of eating breakfast. And I worry a bit about their identification strategy: because it's poorer schools who got school breakfast programmes, we might expect that there could be relevant differences in how parents respond to school holidays that might affect the difference between school/not school outcomes for reasons other than the programme.

Waehrer, 2008, in an unpublished study funded by the USDA's RIDGE programme, found that school breakfast participation reduced the likelihood of eating breakfast. We could imagine this happening where the kids don't really want breakfast anyway, the parents stop making them eat it at home because there's the programme at school, and then they skip it when they get to school. The study could have similar identification issues to the Bhattacharya piece noted above; they identify on weekday-weekend differences, but cohorts might respond differently to weekends.

Shemilt, Harvey, Shepstone et al, 2004, found pretty mixed outcomes in a messy randomised control trial. They wound up abandoning the RCT part of the analysis and just going for regressions. They found some evidence of worsened outcomes of having attended school breakfast programmes on a few behavioural measures, but I'm again not convinced that they've pinned down causality. What they seemed most sure of was that school breakfast programmes had kids eating more fruit, so I guess there's that.

There were a couple of pieces claiming reasonable benefits from school breakfast programmes too.

Powell, Walker, et al, 1998, ran a really nice randomised control trial in Jamaica. Kids in the programme got breakfast, those not in the programme were given a small piece of orange. So they're able to isolate socialisation effects from breakfast effects. They found that the treatment group saw small increases in nutritional status, achievement, and attendance; they suggested that "greater improvements may occur in more undernourished populations." I'm not convinced that we're in that category.

Murphy, Pagano et al (1998) found that moving from selective to universal school breakfast programmes had some benefits, but also had some odd results. Before intervention, "hungry and at-risk children were slightly, but not significantly, more likely to participate in the school breakfast program than nonhungry children", and that more than half of the hungry and at-risk kids rarely or never participated in voluntary school breakfast programmes. So stigma associated with voluntary programmes can substantially affect uptake. But, when the programmes were made universal, hungry and at-risk kids were only "somewhat more likely to increase their school breakfast participation than non-hungry children... although this difference was not statistically significant." So what do we then make of results showing some improved average outcomes at school but no particular increase in breakfast-eating among those who are hungry? I wonder if all the effects here point to that eating later in the morning rather than earlier is better. I'll talk more about this below. 

Dotter, 2012, finds that universal in-class school breakfasts increase the number of children eating breakfast at school compared to voluntary programmes that could have stigma effects, but I couldn't see that the paper measured whether there was an effect on total breakfast consumption. And while Dotter finds increased school performance in schools with universal school breakfast programmes, I can't see how the paper distinguishes between an "eating at all" and an "eating later" effect. Why does this matter? Imagine an alternative policy where schools allow a designated morning tea break at 10:30 where kids bring in their own snacks. This would be cheaper than full school breakfast programmes and just as effective, if the main channel of effectiveness is having a fuller tummy at the time of instruction because breakfast was later.

Frisvold, 2012, found that state mandates requiring schools to provide school breakfast programmes increase availability of those programmes and consequently increase test scores: the paper reports math score increases of nine percent of a standard deviation and reading score increases of five percent of a standard deviation. Again, there is no significant effect on the total days per week that a student eats breakfast, suggesting substantial displacement of breakfasts that would otherwise have been eaten at home. The paper claims that the effect is through a nutrition channel, with kids eating healthier breakfasts. But I can't see how they're distinguishing the nutrition channel from my suggested "they're eating later in the morning and so are less hungry at 11" channel.

So, some bottom lines:

  • School breakfast programmes really don't seem to increase the likelihood of that kids eat breakfast at all;
  • To the extent that they improve outcomes in some studies, we really can't tell:
    • whether the effect is from changing the timing of breakfast, in which case we should instead have a morning tea break;
    • whether the effect is any better than just giving those families an equivalent cash transfer.
I spent an hour in Wellington and Christchurch walking through these findings. I hope we don't throw a pile of money at school breakfast programmes; the money could well be better spent. That also seemed to be the conclusion of a New Zealand study: Mhurchu et al, 2012, who found that the only effect of a randomised control trial of school free breakfast programmes here was that kids self-reported being less hungry.

UPDATE: Lindsay Mitchell points to a presentation on the New Zealand trialShe also points to data showing child poverty rates have been dropping.

 
Dr Eric Crampton is a senior lecturer in economics at the University of Canterbury. He blogs at Offsetting Behaviour.

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Thanks NBR for giving exposure to a balanced alternative view as to the true need for this social agenda. The problem with the 'do good' brigade is they so often fail to identify the true causes of any perceived problem and cannot bring themselves to identify or heaven forbid actually blame the culprits who fail to feed their kids.

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Who is failing to feed these children? I would suggest the National government and the past 25 years of right-wing reformers are the ones who aren't feeding people! That you and 45 others think this way is a fine testiment to the abilities of political spin doctors and government propaganda machine.

This form of hatred and resentment aimed at the poorest and most vulnerable people in our country is history repeating itself. I have just read a book about the 1930s depression and how the miserly conservative government held on for years while people went hungry. It wasn't until the first Labour government came along that this country was turned around, houses were built, people were able to work and were fed and kept warm.

Of course, we all know Labour are never ever going to do anything like that ever again. You should be ashamed of yourself, and although I think food in schools is just another way to degrade poor people, your callous, ignorant bigoted attitude and comments are far worse.

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Is this another one of those 'not so funny' satirical peices NBR sometimes publishes on a Saturday?

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No. It's an article which should make you think about what the real problems are, and what the most effective solutions might be.

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Evidence not to your liking?

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It's not to mine. Did you read : Mhurchu et al, 2012, ?
So they concluded that school breakfast had no effect on school attendance and that the kids felt full.
I thought school attendance in NZ was compulsory, hungry or not?

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To be fair, school dinners, back in the late 70's, in UK, had a dramatic effect on my school attendance.

We simply didn't go in the end.

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Reality always looks like satire to the Left who view the world through the prism of their ideology and view facts merely as a crutch for their beliefs rather than a means to investigate truth.

You could always inform yourself by actually reading some of the many factual investigations linked above, but of course it is far simpler and less challenging both to intelligence and belief system just to make a silly dismissive comment.

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What a surprise - Fox News' Alan Wilkinson is back with his abuse. Good to know we can always really on him to show just how intolerant and unthinking "classic liberalism" really is.

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I'd like to say that you comment is superbly crafted and elegantly explained reason but, of course, it is not. Looks to me that Alan has put up a reasoned argument that is not to your liking and that you have no rational response.

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Your first para applies equally to you and your friends on the right. I have never been a fan of blind ideology, regardless of who and where it comes from.

Your second para also applies to yourself. Please tell me how many children the studies showed didn't have breakfast at home?

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@Sara, no, it doesn't apply to me but maybe to you. I read both the links to NZ data before I commented:

Breakfast time in New Zealand
• Around 15% of children leave for school without having eaten breakfast (55,000/day)

Key findings from BISkIT study
• Programme led to a significant decrease in hunger
• No effect on other outcomes measured (attendance, learning, behaviour, food security)
• Participation in programme less than expected – ranged from 5-79% but on average students attended ~30% of the time (dilution effect)
• Rather than increasing breakfast consumption overall many children who previously ate breakfast at home appeared to swap location
(substitution effect)

http://tinyurl.com/bcdsydh

" The latest data available shows that levels of child poverty are declining: the percentage of children living in households with income below 60 percent of the median after-housing costs household income (referenced to 2007) has fallen from 37 percent in 2001 to 21 percent in 2011."

http://tinyurl.com/8ogp4zq

How does that fit your ideology?

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Crampton's research does not cover anything in NZ.

The BISKIT study certainly does but I am always loathe to draw conclusions from simply one study. Certainly, 15% of children not having breakfast is a major concern. I query how valid the short-term results are but I note reduction in hunger and that the researchers specifically point out that "reflief of hunger alone is important".

Your second study has a series of moving presumptions and measures, primarilly based around the isssue of there being no official measure of poverty in NZ. The study does note (pages 90 & 97) the difficulty in measuring poverty. Your conclusion (and the study's own decision to move the reference point to 2007) is selective and contentious.

The problem with all of Crampton's review is that none of the overseas research he references deals specifically with the impact on children who do not have breakfast at home. Otherwise the substitution effect you refer to becomes an issue. The key is also looking at the impact of these children being provided with breakfast over a longer period where measurable results have credibility.

As I said previously, I have never been a fan of blind ideology, regardless of who and where it comes from. I wish you advocated the same.

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I certainly do advocate for fact-based science and policy. I'm not so sure 15% of children not having breakfast is such a concern. That in itself is a presumption that seems unsupported by the evidence to date. Are these kids getting enough food and a healthy diet is the first question. The second is whether skipping breakfast affects their school performance. Where is the evidence and if there is none, why not?

The MSD data certainly refutes the claims that the poverty of NZ children is getting worse and that the poor have seen no benefits from NZ's economic progress. Both of those claims are false. Doubtless to the horror of the Left, trickle down actually works.

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The MSD data does not say that. It does make an assertion based on all sorts of different assumptions that have been highly contentious. At the same time the MSD analysis acknowledges but for their assumption they couldn't make their assertion and commemnts on the overall difficulties involved.

What is your definition of what constitutes poverty in NZ Alan?

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Sara, I raised the two issues that matter: are children getting properly fed and are they able to learn properly? The definition of poverty is both arbitrary and irrelevant - merely a lobbying crutch. My questions are the objective scientific ones.

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1. Currently we don't know the answer to your first issue.

2. Allowing for the other research that has now been brought up in discussions here (rather than simply Crampton's review) it appears that the issue of not having breakfast and the impact on learning is still to be resolved. It would, however, be quite easy to undertake an appropriate longer term study with the affected children while avoiding any substitution impact.

3. I am fascinated by your view that poverty cannot be defined in scientific or objective terms. It appears to more of an excuse by you to avoid the issue and its implications, even though it could easily be a measure of economic prosperity. (And don't tell me please that scientists agree about everything.)

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Sara, first congratulations on being the only critic of this article prepared to debate the issues properly rather than stupid slagging off, which is all the left normally manages. I agree with your first two points with the proviso that there seems a prima facie case. On the second Eric is correct and breakfast provision is not very effective. In fact, untargeted it could well cause harm by weakening parental interaction with their children as they skip breakfast at home.

I maintain the view that poverty is a hopelessly subjective and relative concept that is of little use. This is surely clear from your refusal to accept the definitions and assumptions made by MSD.

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Small correction to above, my phone put an unwanted fullstop after "case". The sentence should have just continued which changes the meaning.

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Thank you, Alan, for your congratulations. I merely note that the absence of slagging from both sides of the political equation better serves discussion.

If you refer to the other studies sourced alsewhere in these discussion links, Eric's case is considerably weakened. And how is parental interaction with their children undermined if the parents cannot afford breakfast for anyone?

I believe there should be a proper debate over a poverty measure. It is just too easy to say it is too hard, and you as a scientist should never shy away from something that needs to be thrashed out. That is what scientific debate is all about, as long as scientists don't end up slagging each other (as they have done so unhelpfully with regard to climate change).

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Unless the programme is tightly targeted it seems clear it will switch children from eating at home to eating at school. But if it is tightly targeted it seems it will have low take up due to stigmatisation.

I'm rarely accused of shying away from debate. As for poverty in countries like ours, I remain highly sceptical that the concept is either useful or capable of definition. There are just far too many complexities in people's lives and circumstances for simplistic assessments.

What is the point of drawing a line which will inevitably leave some under it happy and fulfilled, while others cannot cope?

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The whole point is for any programme to be targetted and thus avoid any substitution effect. I don't believe your stigmatisation impact will occcur as you suggest - but that is the point of doing it; to find out.

And the whole point of a definition of poverty is to target programmes and measure the equality of economic growth. I believe the poverty level in New Zealand is considerably underestimated. Any agreed measure may not be pure, but it will be a measure that can be monitored.

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Well, yes, except that the Fonterra/Sanitarium project was targeted and reported both low uptake and substitution. It surely seems sensible to run a pilot to find what works before a nationwide rollout?

You can't measure or estimate poverty until you can define it. I don't believe you can adequately define it in this country.

The Gini coefficient measures income disparity internationally. It hasn't changed for two decades for NZ.

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LOL, Alan Wilkinson an advocate for fact-based science? Yes, of course you are Alan, that's why you are a rampant climate change denier, aren't you?
Alan Wilkinson versus the 97% of scientific papers that support man-made warming published in the last 20 years (recent study). Very fact-based there, Alan.

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Science advances one brain at a time - never by priests counting their disciples of the true faith.

But you would know that if you were a scientist.

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I will take my 5 scientific degrees over whatever you have to offer, Alan.

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PhD and honours degree in physical organic chemistry, two years post doc research and several published papers, 13 years university computational statistics assisting research. Yours?

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Alan, did you get yours from China??

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Wow, that adds a lot to the discussion ! Not.
Let me guess, your name is really David Shearer ?

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Wow, a whole 2 years postdoc research and several published papers you say? Clearly you never made the grade to actually have a proper scientific career. That explains a great deal.

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I even have a real name and the guts to publish over it. So the likes of your pathetic anonymous sniping merely shows you for what you are.

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And yet in so many ways you have learnt nothing.

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Alan Wilkinson for Prime Minister. In fact, let's just make him President. He's so perfect, always right, so considerate of other points of view, doesn't generalise or moralise and he still believes in "The Creation" theory....

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Sorry, I'll have to decline, Carl, until I get a more intelligent, informed electorate. Most of the voters don't deserve the high quality PM we already have and hamstring what he can do to fix the country's problems. As you and others demonstrate daily.

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What socioeconmic group does this 15% of children who don't have breakfast belong to? What percentage of these children come from middle to upper class families, and the kids aren't eating breakfast because they don't want to get fat? Research shows that children are worried about their weight and body image from the age of 4-5 onwards, a concern no doubt made worse by the moral panic over obesity.

Hunger is a very poor measure, in my view, to establish whether or not a child is getting enough to eat in the 1st world. Well-fed children get hungry, too. Hunger is a natural part of our biology - we all experience it. It's a simple signal that says it's time to eat. It really just signifies how long it was since we last ate, and how much we ate. By itself it doesn't in any way imply that a child lives in poverty and the left would do well to remember that before it starts pointlessly spending my money on its political advancement.

Since kids at school can't eat whenever they like, most of them will no doubt feel hungry at some stage during the morning as time since breakfast passes. Well-fed children skip breakfast, and they may well feel hungry when the arrive at school. So just what exactly does hunger in children at school really measure?

Surely the question in these studies should be aimed at determining why a child is hungry, when did they last eat, what did they eat and why. And until these questions are adequately addressed the left should hold off of its blinkered dogma and ideological rush of socialism to its collective head.

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Ok...let me add just one word - CONSTANT hunger - is that a reasonable enough benchmark to use when we wish to understand what constitutes hunger in children at school? So much hunger in children obviously as we are all discussing this particular topic on every level of news and social media that I observe these days. There must be a problem/issue surrounding this or are you telling me we are all talking about a 'nothing issue' for the fun of it - that we all have time to waste like that? But you do bring up some very valid points I'd like to address... I quote you "most of them will no doubt feel hungry at some stage during the morning as time since breakfast passes". Yes, most will, but the ones we are talking about didn't have breakfast as a point of measurement for the commencement of their hunger. Not because they didn't feel like eating, but because there was nothing to eat. And it's the same for them every day in and every bloody day out.
And that we have been discussing this for so long, and really still nothing which could be seen as properly addressing the issue. Exactly how long do you think we should wait before we at least put something tangible in place for this very obvious problem...feeding the kids who are hungry?

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"Ok...let me add just one word - CONSTANT hunger - is that a reasonable enough benchmark to use when we wish to understand what constitutes hunger in children at school?"

I want proof. I want the questions in my last paragraphe properly addressed. I'm not interested in another moral panic whipped up by the chattering, hand-wringing left of this country. Constant hunger can have medical causes so it is a meaningless metric in the context of studying poverty in the first world.

I want to know what children haven't had breakfast and why.

Take my word for it, it is not good enough for me.

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Your emotional adjectives give you away. There is clearly no objectivity in your thinking. You are a denialist that isn't really interested in proof. You will constantly shift your ground anytime someone presents proof. Far be it that anyone who is not a right-winger may have good policy ideas! You will never change regardless of anything anyone presents to you.

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I never knew you had a sense of humour, Alan.... denying you "view the world through the prism of (your) ideology and view facts merely as a crutch for (your) beliefs rather than a means to investigate truth. Got to give it to you - that's very funny.

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I'm more than happy to leave it to others to judge which side has referenced the data in this debate and which has merely hurled insults.

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Alan, why do you bother ?
You know you are oinly going to get nonsense from these left wing nutters with entitlement attitudes..
You only serve to fire them up. As their comments demonstrate, you will never change their thinking, it is just too ingrained. Probaly all Green Party members and part time journalists.

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It's rather fun to fire them up and see just how brain-dead stupid they are. And every few weeks you get one with a brain and can actually debate the facts and expose them to other readers. Cheers.

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"The latest data available shows that levels of child poverty are declining: the percentage of children living in households with income below 60 percent of the median after-housing costs household income (referenced to 2007) has fallen from 37 percent in 2001 to 21 percent in 2011."

This is not a measure of poverty! It's a measure of income distribution amoing households only. We could be a nation of billionaries and those with 'only a few hundred million' would therefore be 'poor'. As ridiculous as this sounds, I bet every real poor child and family in Africa or Mongolia is laughing their heads off at how our children are 'poor' if their iPhone is more than two models old and they don't have an All Blacks jersey!

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What do you view your perfect world through, a prism of your own making? child hater.

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Does it mean that all school goers will be left hungry during school holidays...?

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Yes it probably does you uncaring sarcastic to@@er.

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Ever been hungry at school yourself Eric?

Have you bothered asking hungry kids who have been receiving 'food in schools' to find out what THEY think about this issue?

Penny Bright

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Well said Penny!

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Not well said at all. She asks a question which says nothing.

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Dr Crampton wrote in his first sentence that he was asked to review literature by Social Service Providers Aotearoa. That's what he did. He was not asked to conduct a study himself.

Why criticise this guy for reporting on his literature review?

And how would interviewing young school children contribute in any meaningful way to a science-based research study on this issue? There are far better ways to elicit the required information.

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Penny , do you mean "What do the children think about the stigma attached to not being fed at home , the shame of other kids taunting them ?"

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Clearly you haven't read the article Penny. It summarises a large amount of research that has asked that question.

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For goodness sake Penny it is nothing to do with the children, it is the parents 100% responsibility to take care of their children, and if they are struggling they need to address it with their extended family, hells bells we reared 4 kids, and sure we struggled at certain times especially with the odd health problems, but we went without certain things to make sure all of our kids had everything that they required for a healthy life, if you invite children into your lives, stand!!! up and take responsibility for everything that they need.
Every teacher in every school, will know who in their classes are suffering neglect in one form or another, and that school needs to address that with the appropriate avenues available to them, and let me tell you, most of them should be held accountable with child neglect, and I will let you into a secret, I spent
36 yrs working on and repairing "State Houses" for HNZC and what I have seen and witnessed will simply devastate most of you that is for sure, let me assure you 2 million percent, child neglect by parents is really really rife!! and the most common one is that a beer & a cigarette for the parents, is far more important than food in a child's tummy, I have seen heaps of children get injured, fighting over the last slice of budget white bread, it just makes you sick.

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Nail... meet hammer.

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It is not a Gummint responsibility to feed peoples children, absolute end of story for goodness sake what next, also do a lot of you know?? that WINZ give out a stack of vouchers at Xmas time for Xmas Hams to certain people, I know a lady who was a WINZ case manager.

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We have nearly 400,000 receiving WFF, Paid parental leave which the left want doubled. Now breakfast in schools and how soon before its dinner and tea.
Surely our adult population cannot be so irrespopnsible and useless. Breakfast in schools is pure politics to take the wind out of labours sails.

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However, William, it is the government's responsibility to ensure that there is a favourable economic and social environment within which NZ businesses and people can thrive and prosper.
If that were being done there would be no need for things such as WFF because employers would be in a position to pay a decent living wage, they would be able to afford to provide new jobs and people would then be able to be fully employed at a much greater uptake than what is currently happening. At the moment this is just not happening.

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Absolute rubbish!! you make a conscience decision to make and have a child, you make sure that you have the where with all, to support it in all way's that he/she requires, the birth of your child has got absolutely nothing what so ever to with the economy, or weather you have a job or whatever hourly rate of pay you receive, you just make as sure as hell!! that you support it 100% end of argument!! you do what ever is required to achieve that, let me assure you there is no excuse for a hungry un fed child.

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And then there will be the mums that say, "Sheesh, so let the school feed the kids and I get extra cash for a cup of coffee with other mums"
It is just as dopey a policy as that ridiculous "working for families" tax rort.
And now we are going to get rent subsidies so people getting the subsidy can take a less pay than those that pay their own way.
If this is what we get from the Nats, imagine what we are in for if the lab/greens get into Government????

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Come on John, they arent after another coffee..Lets be real about this. Its another pack of cigarettes, another day in front of the pokies or another day at the pub.

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John, your comment about Working for Families is important. That system was introduced to help families to address this type of issue
(i.e., kid's breakfasts). So are people like Penny above saying that has not worked or is it a case of taxpayers just having to pay twice to fix the same issue.
How many schools are set up to give kids breakfasts anyway (I mean have they got the facilities)?

NB. I don't want see hungry kids any more than anyone else but it is just the issues are dealt with.

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Taking this issue to it's logical conclusion and you assume that the parents/caregivers of children turning up for school have also not had breakfast, then surely it is the governments responsibility to provide breakfast for them as well?

Or looking at the issue from a different angle, if children are not being provided with breakfast surely this is child neglect and those children should be taken off the parents/caregivers.

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I can't find anywhere in your opinion piece where you address how many children weren't getting breakfast at home and what the benefits were for them of breakfasts provided at school.

Isn't this what the issue is?

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Perhaps breakfast at schools does have some problems - but what about lunch, which you say you can't comment on. Well you should, you should definately look at that.
Child poverty in New Zealand is an embarrasing reality.
And there are people doing things about it. Please check out Bryan Bruce's Facebook page - you may, and should, be aware of his excellent documentary on child poverty in New Zealand, and how this has been sucessfully addressed in Scandanavian countries (and others)...
http://www.facebook.com/#!/InsideChildPoverty

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All New Zealanders should be embarrassed if there are kids arriving to school hungry or without lunch. We are a 1st world nation and should not tolerate hungry children. I am not sure what the best action is, meals in schools, targeted WINZ/CYPS intervention, more employment etc. However, good on all people involved who are at least trying to make a difference, free breakfast may not be 100% financially efficient but must be better than doing nothing.

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I teach in a low decile school and I work with poor children everyday. I'm really unconcerned with the results of all these surveys from overseas. I know that some of our NZ children are coming to school hungry without breakfast and often without lunch. These children need feeding and that's a simple fact. We have a breakfast programme running in our school but its not enough. When did people stop caring? I read and hear negative remarks constantly where parents are blamed and accused of not looking after their children properly. The majority of families do the best they can for their children with what they have. There are according to NZ statistics 270,000 children living in poverty. That's shameful, as a country we need to do something about it. Feeding the children breakfast and lunch in schools is a start. Wake up and take a real look out there and find the truth for yourself. Take a drive around, ask a teacher in a low decile school, ask a volunteer worker helping with these poor families, whatever it takes.......then try to imagine what it's like for those children. What can you do to make a difference?

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What can I do to make a difference? Well I am already doing my bit, thank you for asking.
But what can you do. How about a 20% cut in all teachers salaries to help pay for your scheme. Perhaps you could identify some kids names to bring their parents to some agencies attention to ensure that the families benefits aren't being diverted into smokes, booze or gambling etc. In fact considering your spurious use of dubious statistics maybe a bit more back to learning and teaching and leave the socialism to your own spare time.

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Anonymous why do you not put your name to your post? I know that I haven't given 20% of my wages to helping feed hungry children. However I have taken food to school to give to hungry children with no lunch on many occasions over my thirty years of teaching. I make a considerable monthly donation to Kids Can, a charitable group that does a great job in helping to feed and clothe NZ children in need. I give my time to help out with the Breakfast Club in my school. What is it you said you did to make a difference?

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What do you mean - "spurious use of dubious statistics"? Donna Harper quoted only one statistic, one from NZ Statistics. If their statistics are dubious, then we really have problems. She also explains her own observations - are you inferring that she is lying? And why on earth should she take a 20%, or any, cut in her salary? I imagine that, like my daughter, she pays for and takes food to school to give the kids a simple breakfast.

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Tell me have you followed through with this and identified the starving children in your class? And had your principal address this issue with the parents involved, or do you just sit on your hands and pretend that you don't notice it like most do? There must be an answer to each individual case, and I would like to believe that the appropriate agency can sort each individual case out?
There has to be an answer to why each child is starving, get to the reason why. I do know one real reason why and it is solely the child's fault as they won't get out of bed and when they do they don't have time to eat before going to school. Now that is a real major reason so, like I say, sort out the problem. There is no excuse for a starving child in this country - one whatsoever.

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Just giving Maori and Islander parents more reasons to forgo their responsibilities. There will be no shortage of freeloaders, quick to cash-in.

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But there will also be those who need it, like the kids whose parents don't care enough about them to feed them. And I don't mind everyone getting a breakfast if it means the kids being neglected are addressed. They are the ones likely to demand the most costs from society in the future. Also, the prospect of a private partnership makes the entire scheme more palatable.

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But the left doesn't believe in private partnerships - only the state can be trusted. Come on, turn out your pockets and pay the increased tax rates that will be required to support this (and other bits and pieces). You know you want to.

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If you can't handle the thought of living in a country that has a Government go live in Somalia, and the sooner the better.

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Nutritionally breakfast is the most important meal.
Families are under stress because of fiscal and policy failures.. personal and governmental..
Not only are the (financially) poor families under stress.. but even those who have almost everything.. a product of this wealth creation.. 3 jobs, both parents working etc..or a streesful Directorship at.. Ltd Liability Company..
so if food is available.. a few fat kids might get fatter.. (stress eating disorder) and poor children might survive long enough to pay something back. ..

Starvation is more damaging.. so cutting losses..

Offerings to all.
its a loaves and fishes thing that subverts the stigma of poverty..
PS.
Better tell Fonterra that dairy is linked to prostrate cancer and breast cancer.. and call DSIR for GM on our cows..pronto.

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Davie, how are ya?

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The reality is that a lot of kids who arrive at school without having had breakfast prefer to spend more time in bed in the mornings. Is it the governments responsibility to prod them out of bed earlier?
Also remember; the cost of this is not on the government but on taxpayers. How many of you want to put their hands in pockets and fork out for this?

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No matter what any remedial scheme is budgeted to cost, once introduced it will balloon. Yes, there's a problem, but simply feeding kids through a govt. programme is not the answer.

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breakfast before activity. <a href="http://www.buspariwisata.info/">bus</a>

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It is an absurdity to keep bleating on about so called poverty in NZ. There is no such thing and for those who harp on about it, need to broaden their horizons, hop on a plane and go out into the big, wide world and see what real poverty is. We have a benefit system here in NZ the generosity of which is unlike any in the world. If any child arrives at school hungry, then it’s the parents that should be investigated. Food stamps in lieu of cash benefits paid to parents, is the key to solving this issue. Sadly, there are many children arriving at school hungry, but feeding them at school is the ambulance at the bottom of the cliff, and instead of ripping off the taxpayer again, the Government need to look at the parents, which where the real problem lies. I have seen the poorest of families struggle daily, to put food in the bellies of their children, prior to the school day and never fail to do so. They do it by simply not spending money on themselves, other than on life’s necessities.

The other issue here, is what are the long term physiological and psychological consequences of feeding children at 9ish in the morning and will this contribute further to the obesity problem NZ already faces? Nowadays, school kids are no where near as physically active at school, as they were back in the days of free milk, decades ago. Is too much kindness going to end up killing them along with the NZ taxpayer? You could argue the complete opposite, that reducing calorie intake and eating only one meal a day, has a significant positive affect on longevity together with associated health benefits and yet even more recently, research shows reducing calorie intake, also increases learning ability . Go figure..

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Have you ever tried living off a benefit, Paul? I suspect not since you wouldn't be making your arrogant statements if you had.

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No, never. But I've been in the position of having no job, no home, no money, no assets. Nothing. Living off the street (almost). Being on a benefit at the time, would have made me feel like a wealthy man. The only thing I had was my pride and determination.

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Unfortunately it's clear that that experience didn't teach you humility or empathy.

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Well, you did ask.

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Dr Crampton. Perhaps you should get your nose out of books and use some common sense. NZ has about 200,000 children living below the poverty line. Did you get your Doctorate on an empty stomach?

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Plenty of people are working full time, and still can't provide for their family. The minimum wage translates to people earning $550 for a 40 hour week before deductions.
In places such as Auckland, it is simply not enough where people can expect to pay at least $300 a week in rent.

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Move to Ohai, Tuatapere, Lumsden or Invercargill and stop your whinging!

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You're much better just talking to yourself John. But not too loudly mind or they'll put that jacket on you again....

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Yes, I could move to places where the rents ar cheaper, but then I'd have to sign on, beause Auckland is where the work is.

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Well, at last, John, you are showing some understanding of the dynamics of regional economies. But you have so much wealth you don't work anyway....

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Much of the commentary here misses the point utterly. If you support breakfasts in school because you think they will improve outcomes other than reported satiety, you should revise your position. If you think that relieving hunger is good for its own sake, then you should probably support running some trials of school breakfast programmes against an alternative of some time for morning tea.

The number of kids reporting not having had breakfast is utterly irrelevant where the proposed intervention does nothing to increase the likelihood of kids' having eaten breakfast. And all of the 'whose responsibility is it' debate kinda requires that the intervention do what it's supposed to do: increase the number of kids having breakfast. If it can't even do that, I don't get why the proposal still has such support. Check the NZ randomised control trial or the reasonably extensive international literature. It is hard to sustain the case that these programmes represent value for money even if you think it is the state's responsibility.

The comment asking whether I was hungry in grad school was pretty funny. I think I budgeted about $3 per meal in my first year of grad studies. The profs reckoned that if the grad students were full and comfortable, we would take too long to finish our dissertations.

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By your own calculation that's $63 per week for meals for one person. Times that by four people in a family and it's $452 a week, more than the take home pay of a minimum wage earner.
Does the penny drop now?

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Eric, welcome to the online version of talkback radio.

As you can see from the comments, with a few exceptions these are not the sort of people who can carry on logical and rational discussion, much less contribute reasonable approaches to solving a problem, whatever their political or ideological persuasion.

I see the commenters being similar to our elected politicians. This shows how difficult it is for any government in NZ to make progress on nearly any complicated issue. There simply isn't a lot of grey matter to work with - in politicians or the general electorate.

I personally agree with NBR's approach to let one and all comment on articles. It's a valuable window on a cross section of NZ society.

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If you can't feed them , don't breed them.

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If you are going to attempt to add something actually add something!

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What, that was too difficult for you to understand? I suspect not, just that you didn't like it - no argument against it, just didn't like it.

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Most of these comments prove one thing, the majority of NBR comments contributors are twisted nasty pieces of work (the usual suspects), civilised countries feed their children, they don't punish them with hunger for the sins of their parents, I am stunned but not surprised by the attitude expressed here, you won't even be swayed by people at the coal face, you are a disgrace... evil little twisted up immoral nobodies with no value to country with these attitudes, crawl back under your rocks and stay there.

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What’s that proverb about “give a child a fish it will feed it him for a day, teach him to fish and it will feed him for life?”

NZ has become a country of lazy slobs, dependent on the taxpayer for everything. The entire country would see long term benefits in the heath and attitudes of existing and future generations, if the government put its energies into encouraging and funding (say, for example), the establishment of gardens/vegetable/ garden boxes, seeds, fertiliser etc, for any family in NZ , who wanted it

We are the food basket of the world yet we have academics screaming from the roof tops about child poverty in NZ. What a load of absolute nonsense! Have they not heard of dirt, a few seeds and some sweat and toil?? And voila.., fresh and nourishing vegetables/fruit etc, for life.

Its great to see such initiatives like these now been perused by some schools, but why have these initiatives not been perused by the parents? Simple, parents are abdicating the roll of the care of their children to the State through laziness and a mindset of gimme, gimme, gimme, ironically bred into them by the State, over generations of welfare

Now, how does that proverb go about “we reap what we sow..?? “

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What a load to tosh, more blah, blah, blah, and as for your last line... who do you think you are? We are talking about little kids you moron, what do you suggest, they go beg for food before school, go catch some fish... you twisted piece of c@#p. Every child in this country should be guaranteed x 1 proper nutritional meal per day... period, if you are against that you are anti human.

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Vulgar abuse does nothing to advance your argument. You are right, though; every child should be guaranteed proper nutritional food. It's the parents' responsibility to do that.

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And what if they don't do it, eh? What's your answer to that, let them starve? You know if I was in the trenches I wouldn't want a yellow belly like you around.

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A wonderful example of the arrogance of the rich continuing to make money out of people during a recession, quick to blame and criticise, even though they have no real knowledge of the problems of others. You, Paul Marsden, are a classic example of why New Zealand's middle class (the foundation of our nation ) is being destroyed. Your arrogant intolerance will tear this country apart in the near future.

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I agree. During the 1939-45 war there were food shortages in Britain. Food rationing was brought in, and everyone was encouraged to "Dig for Britain" (or was it "Dig for Victory"?). Anyway, the findings were that the ordinary Briton had never been so well, nutritionally, before or since the war.
And, yes, I agree that Winston Churchill wasn't out in his garden planting potatoes - so what.
And, yes, I grow food in my garden - tiny though it is.

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Go grow your potatoes, congratulations. Well done. But what about the parents who can't or won't feed their children properly... They go hungry, do they?

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1) They go to jail
2) Remove the the kids and place them into a loving, nurturing enviroment.

Give me one vaild reason as to why a parent may not be able to grow a potato??

I'm all ears...

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More abuse and even less reason and fact then usual. Outstanding !

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Give the kids the option and access at least, even if it only helps a few kids whose parents are having struggles at home.

Everybody pays tax. I'm sick of people whining about hard-earned tax and your tax and your pockets.

It's hard for some in this country. We are not close to 3rd world Issues but it's no excuse to not even try to rectify the issues and help the down trodden.

Poverty does exist. The only reason it isn't to the extent and extreme of other countries is cause we are New Zealanders and for the most part I would like to think that we do care care about the welfare of every person in this couintry.

But some of you seek to change this, promoting an 'every person for themselves' type of attitude and squabbling over things like this.

If studies show that breakfast programmes generally have little effect or no improvement then maybe they were doing it wrong. Maybe if we put as much empasis and advertising into programmes like this as we do into asset sales of Mighty River we might just help the demographic we we were seeking to assist.

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No matter how poor, no loving, caring parent in their right mind would allow their child to go hungry, unless, of course, through some act of nature their hand is forced such as drought/plague, etc, Touch wood, we do not experience such devasting events in NZ. Interestingly, it is rare to see a hungry child in China, where the masses are poor and where real poverty is endemic and… where there are no government handouts. Ask yourself, why is that?

There is absolutely no question that there are thousands of families in NZ on struggle street who live hand to mouth, not to mention school fees for this and that, etc, and the poor kids and parents who can’t afford to participate in some school activities because they don’t have the money (not to mention the stigma they have to deal with). It is despairing to see.
In my opinion, successive governments have really screwed up the education system in a multitude of ways; screwed up the taxation system and screwed up where welfare is targeted. By way of example (and as an employer), I can tell you that since the increase of GST to 15% the poor have got poorer, and they are about to get poorer still, when the new fuel tax comes into affect in July.

Instead of considering the notion of providing for breakfast in schools the government needs to address the root of the problem, as I have outlined above. A wholesale cleanout and simplification of the existing taxation system in NZ would be a good place to start.

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Like revise the system so that you pay even less of your share of tax? You're probably still complaining that the Nats didn't lower top taxes even further for you in the midst of the GFC. Oh that's right - it was going to increase your spending and create more jobs..... Nice that you can buy all the discounted AV stuff or do you get yours from overseas?

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You're an idiot, Crampton.

The warning bells are there from the start of your article: "On my best read of the literature.." (what pomp).

Get out of your ivory tower and go and visit some low-decile schools to experience the effects first hand before expressing the conclusion that "it just doesn't work".

Thank god the country isn't run by economists like you.

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I doubt it will matter much, but do note that 'my best read' doesn't mean that my reading is necessarily the best one. It means that this is the best conclusion I can draw from that literature while recognizing that others might conclude differently.

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The evidence is a string of findings within a limited scope. Feeding people is a good thing no matter what the context. And it can be a good way to make friends, grow communities and strengthen democracies.

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Highly-emotive and polarising issue, this. I'm inclined towards the Opening of Pandora's box, Thin end of the wedge, Making a rod for your back, and Unleashing the two-headed monster-type scenarios.

It's going to be very difficult to set the parameters as to who -- and what schools -- are deserving of this "soup kitchen in schools" paradigm. And this paradigm will be forever shifting. Might not be milk-and-cereal this year and hot-lunch next year, but you get my drift.

In no time at all, this will take on a life of its own. In all practical terms, it won't achieve what it's supposed to. It's a band-aid, ad hoc, loosely-though-out solution; with high ideals but with no quantifiable metric to prove that it will actually improve a child's capacity to learn in class and/or address the wider issues of poverty and going-hungry. Human nature being what it is (moreso, with this demographic), means that anybody-and-everybody will be availing themselves to the freebie.

More of a PR exercise to boost the government's political stocks than a meaningful programme to assist the Disadvantaged. Doesn't quite assume the shades of "Let them eat cake", but not far off it

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If you want to start on the difficult road of solving these problems, vote ACT - and NO, I'm not a rich git (wish I was). Read Sir Roger Douglass's Alternative Budget in an earlier NBR article. The Government should alter the legislative coat we wear so that it is to the advantage of the individual to do what is required, rather than the Government trying to force people to do it by regulation.

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As if that had a flying chance in hell of getting anywhere. Let's work with what can be done in the real world. Douglas has been dreaming all his life.

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It would appear that the world you know, sits firmly aloft your shoulders.

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Here is a more comprehensive review of several studies complete with references.
Well worth the read:<url>http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2043412/</url>

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Sure. The piece shows reasonable effects in poor countries when done in particular ways but pretty mixed results in high income countries.

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There's the rub. New Zealand is not a high income country.

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Yes, but nevertheless it shows different results to your review and conclusions. I find it disturbing that people have so easily found other studies that conflict with your commissioned opinion piece.

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The opinion piece isn't commissioned, Sara. I was asked to review the lit and present at a couple of seminars; I thought it worth posting the summary for those who weren't at the seminar.

Re-read my summary. I said there's good evidence that the programmes can work in low income countries; the Jamaica RCT was very nice. And even there, results weren't huge in magnitude - they suggested we'd have bigger effects in poorer countries. But NZ is a high income country as far as these kinds of studies are concerned, and results in those kinds of countries just aren't great. The most common finding is that they don't increase the likelihood that kids have breakfast, and anything that they draw beyond that in terms of causal effects look really weak to me.

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Eric. I have never seen a hungry child turn away food.

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I suggest all you critcs go visit Rhode St School in Hamilton and think again.

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It would be rather good if the left leaning beaters in these comments were more objective and less insulting. It may help the debate
What parent in NZ cannot find a peanut better sandwich and an apple for the child in the morning ?

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So selective, Graeme, in your criticism about simply one side. An objective view from the start of comments would see who started the ridicule and abuse. Certainly, some have subsequently gone overboard, but even reasonable contributions have seen personal abuse from the right.

I suspect your second comment comes from a privileged position where you have never had to worry about every dollar and cent.

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For all those households where kids don't get fed properly, you can be sure there is no shortage of booze, ciggies, weed, etc. So stop all this pious hand-wringing.

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So your solution is not really any solution? What about the kids?

So while we debate about the fixes to the core of this issue what's done for them in the meantime?

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The solution to all of this has been staring us in the face all along and nobody has realised it.

Hone, how about getting your hands on some of the Treaty settlement billions and setting up soup kitchens in all of the maraes up and down the country. I mean, let's face it, Hone they are for all Maori to benefit from, are they not? And what better way than looking after your future generations as they come through, and the parents who are failing on their responsibilities.
I won't effect the capital as you would only be using a small amount of the investment returns.
Job done, guys, very few hungry kids at school from now on.

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Racist attitudes and bigotry are nothing new to me if you're trying to strike a reaction behind the comfort of your "Anonymous" Title.

Just a great display of your maturity or lack thereof, your comments really depict the envious twisted existence from which you stem from.

I wish you luck with your sense of belonging in this country :-)

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There you are - just like you I have revealed my identity. Well, to a point, as that is what my hubby calls me!
I was always taught in my 66 years of growing up that you always address the problem, not the result. It was with tongue in cheek that I suggested "soup kitchens". But in saying that, it would more than likely be the result of any attempt to fix the problem, as my experience with certain people is that they absolutely rely on others to correct their wrongs. You go get your hands on some of those settlement funds, and invest it in some educational programmes and try and point some of those people who are guilty of child neglect, as I can assure you that is exactly what it is, in the right direction.
There are so so many of them living the "Kahui" lifestyle it is soul destroying even as I speak right now, over my back fence two houses away, and we are helpless until some sort of violence occurs.
Roll up your sleeves Honez, and get stuck into the problem, and forget the blame game and or trying to get all and others to fund it, and also remember it is only an 18% problem - the tail wagging the dog again!
Cheers.
Hunez

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66 years has not taught you the fallacy in stereotyping and placing them all into categories.

There was no argument against resolving the core issue. However, both the result and the cause need to be addressed.

The attitude here is callous towards the actual little people effected as the only intent here is to place blame and prosecute the parents whom you seem to assume are all guilty of negligence.

Despite the fact that you did not bring these kids into the world you are a New Zealander. I used to think that meant doing the right thing regardless of who you feel is to blame.

I used to be proud to be a New Zealander. Now the greater flow of things in this country seem to be the true desecration of the heart and soul.

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Funny that, Honez. Soon there will only be mostly beneficiaries left in this country and immigrants from afar. The ones who have been educated and taught a reasonable blueprint of the basics of living and life have been leaving for a better quality of life for some considerable time now, hence we have more NZ Maori and Pacific Islanders living in Australia than here in NZ and the Islands. Those who are left behind are mostly the ones who need all of the help and guidance available, and truckloads of it.
Honez,all it needs is someone in these extended families to get stuck in and provide a good education, and it takes resources - and lots of them, unfortunately.
Educate the causes of these so-called starving children in schools and all of a sudden the results will rectify themselves.
I rest my case.
Hunez.

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There is another possible benefit to take into account which is that sitting at a properly laid table can be counted as part of one's education and the requirement to sit next to people one does not particularly like and get along is a vital social skill.

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We are our brothers keeper or are we selfish ? ? ?

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