Dom Post on Breakfasts in Schools

The Dom Post editorial:

All the debate about whether the state should have to provide breakfast for children in schools doesn’t change the bottom line. Some children are going to school with empty bellies.

Of course the Government should not need to join with Fonterra, Sanitarium and children’s charity KidsCan to offer Weet-Bix and milk five mornings’ a week to children in low decile schools. Feeding one’s children is perhaps the single most important responsibility a parent has.

And the hope is, that parents won’t use the scheme as a reason not to do breakfast at home. Kids having breakfast with their parents is important not just nutritionally, but also socially.

Once seeking assistance from the state was viewed as a last resort. The New Zealand ethos was that individuals stood on their own feet and helped their neighbours. Anything that weakens that ethos is regrettable.

However, this is an instance where practicality trumps theory.

But we need to be careful to make sure the exception is not the rule. While breakfasts in schools helps deal with the symptom, we must do more to deal with the problem of some parents not having the parenting skills they need.

The Government is budgeting to spend $4.6 billion on benefits this year and more than another $7b on other forms of assistance to low-income individuals and families. There is no reason for any child to go to school without breakfast, particularly when families can apply for hardship grants in emergencies, and a couple of Weet-Bix and some milk to pour over the top costs only about 50 cents.

We have one of the most generous welfare states in the world.

Hungry children are unable to concentrate and unable to learn. They are also more likely to disrupt their classmates’ opportunities to learn.

In addition they are more likely to leave school without the skills to cope in the wider world and more likely, as adults, to become a continuing burden on society.

If a few million dollars will increase the chances of them achieving their potential and becoming good citizens, it will be money well spent. …

Also deserving of praise for good corporate citizenship are Sanitarium, the Australian food group owned by the Seventh-day Adventist Church and New Zealand’s biggest company, Fonterra. Together the two companies expect to inject as much in the scheme in the form of cereal and milk as the Government in cash. 

There is one other party to the deal without whose participation it cannot succeed – local communities.

They will run the breakfasts and provide bowls and spoons. Their involvement makes the scheme a genuine partnership between the state, business and local communities and makes it a potential model for the delivery of other forms of assistance.

A far far better solution than merely passing a law requiring the Government to take over breakfast from parents.

Will Labour still vote for Hone Harawira’s bill, and vote for the state to become legally responsible for breakfasts?

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