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Demand for Kidscan Food in-School programme doubles in five years

In 2005 when KidsCan started it was providing food and clothing items to 40 low decile schools, this year it’s helping 675 schools.

KidsCan CEO Julie Chapman says the charity now feeds nearly 30,000 children a week in 16 regions across New Zealand, which works out (on average) to 21 percent of the KidsCan schools’ roll. That’s up from just 11% five years ago.

“The increase in the need for food support is significant. If this continues, in another five years nearly half of students in decile 1 to 4 schools could be relying on KidsCan for food so they can function and focus on their education.”

For Kingsford Primary School Principal Chris Williams that future is already a reality with around half of the Mangere school’s 400 students arriving without food for lunchtime.

“You can tell from their behaviour many haven’t had breakfast either, they’re tired and they don’t have enough energy to focus in class. This can’t be about the blame culture as the children aren’t responsible. We’ve all got to focus on the needs of the children. They only get one shot at an education and they need to be able to make the most of it.”

NZ registered Nutritionist, Nikki Hart, says childhood is a time of rapid physical, cognitive and behavioural change so food insecurity at this time in their lives could have serious adverse effects.

“It isn’t just about energy levels, in most developed countries the diets of people who are food insecure can provide enough energy, but they do not provide enough nutrients. They aren’t nutrient dense which means children living in food insecure homes are often undernourished and that can compromise their health, now and in future.”

There are an estimated 40,000 hospitalisations of children every year for preventable illness that is linked to poverty.

Nikki Hart says, “KidsCan is doing what it can by putting in a lot of effort to making sure it is meeting the New Zealand Food and Nutrition guidelines set by the Ministry of Health. It provides food from four main groups aimed at preventing nutritional deficiencies and diet-related chronic diseases so the children can achieve optimal growth.”

The food provided by KidsCan consists of fresh bread, fruit pottles, scroggin mix, baked beans, yoghurt, spreads, snack bars and hot meals. The charity has also worked with schools to create orchards, with 350 fruit trees being planted this year alone to provide children with ongoing healthy snacks.

Julie Chapman says KidsCan schools report as soon as there is food in a school there is an increase in attendance, children participate more in class and there is less bullying and fighting.

Kingsford Primary School is one of 34 schools on KidsCan’s waiting list. Mr Williams warns the level of poverty shouldn’t be pushed aside as the result of bad parenting.

“The parents I see are doing the best they can trying to balance stagnant low incomes against ever increasing living expenses but they just don’t have enough money. The other week for example, I saw food costs are up 2.3 percent on a year ago, there’s a shortage of suitable houses and rents aren’t going down anytime soon.”

According to the latest information released by the Office of the Children’s Commissioner 155,000 Kiwi kids or 14 per cent are living in hardship. With many families spending 60% of their income on rent, leaving not enough money for other bills, food and necessities such as transport and clothing.

“I’m pretty sure most New Zealanders agree it’s not okay so many Kiwi kids are going hungry and without the basics due to no fault of their own. KidsCan is hoping to have its programmes in 700 schools by Christmas.

“We can’t solve the issue of poverty but with the public’s help we can stop any children going hungry at school in New Zealand. We owe the children, and our future selves that,” says Julie Chapman.

www.kidscan.org.nz

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