The Greens have been promoting the feeding of kids in schools for some time. It’s an easy subject to win sympathy on, most people would think that kids shouldn’t go hungry.
But is it a bigger problem than child obesity?
And whether it is or not, could giving some kids more food contribute to the obesity problem?
In Parliament yesterday Green co-leader Metiria Turei made a wee mistake in making another point about hunger in schools. See Turei admits error in school lunch battle.
She later clarified that she meant:
Kidscan says about 23% on average and up to 90% of the kids in the schools it works with need lunch everyday.
I don’t think even that is clear. I presume she thinks that all kids need lunch every day but in schools that Kidscan deals with up to 90% go without lunch so should have it supplied by the Government.
That’s a lot of lunchless kids. It seems hard to believe that nine out of ten kids at some schools go without lunch.
But I think this needs more scrutiny. Why are kids lunchless?
One of the implications is that many families are too poor to feed their kids enough. There are counter claims that some families don’t care fir their kids properly and spend their money on booze and cigarettes and marijuana etc.
Both arguments are probably partially correct.
But there will be other issues. How many kids spend their lunch money on other things? How many eat their lunch early and have nothing left by lunchtime?
When I was at school I sometimes threw my lunch away because I was bored with packed lunches. (At other times I took a schoolbag full of apples and munched all day).
But the big elephant in the Green classroom is child obesity. If the Government gave kids food would feed an obesity problem as well as or instead of giving kids enough basic nutrition?
I can imagine that if food was given away when I went to school I could eat my own lunch for play lunch and line up for the food handout at lunchtime.
(But it would depend on what they handed out, they gave away milk for a few years and I never liked drinking milk).
A Stuff report from last November says Child obesity rates climbing.
About one-third of New Zealand children are now overweight or obese compared with about one in four in Australia.
A commitment to achieving a child obesity rate of 25 per cent by 2025 by the Government would be a good start, Professor Boyd Swinburn and Stefanie Vandevijvere, of Auckland University, said in a New Zealand Medical Journal (NZMJ) article published today.
Achieving that target across all ethnic groups would not be feasible under present conditions, they said.
The Government had failed to prioritise obesity as a major health concern in recent years.
It can’t be assumed that a school with 90% of kids needing lunch also has 33% of obese kids – but that should be considered when proposing giving kids more food.
Rates of childhood obesity among Maori and Pacific communities were significantly higher than for other ethnic groups.
Turei referred to Northland schools in Parliament:
Does the Prime Minister still think that the number of kids in low-decile schools who require lunch is still just the odd one or two, when nine schools in Northland are now on the waiting list for help from KidsCan?
It can be assumed that the Northland schools have above average numbers of Maori and Pacific
Handing out food would help some kids – but it could also feed our obesity problem. Stuff article:
Higher rates of obesity among Maori and Pacific groups was a result of socio-economic deprivation and socio-cultural barriers.
“Part of it is socio-cultural barriers in those populations. They do place higher socio-cultural value on food and large volumes of food because they are more collective societies.”
I’m confused. Maori and Pacific people place a higher socio-economic value on large volumes of food but their kids are more likely to go hungry at school?
It is also claimed that poor people eat large amounts of poor quality food and that’s why they get fat.
Is that a financial problem or an education problem.
Maybe schools should teach kids about good nutrition and wise food budgeting.
But it is said that kids don’t learn properly if they are hungry, so they need to be fed more (by the state) so they get a better education so they will feed themselves less.
It gets complicated.
But do we have a bigger problem for the future from having skinny kids or having fat kids.
There seems to be two conflicting emphases:
- Kids need more food in schools
- We have a growing child obesity problem.
So is that a dilemma for the Greens and Kidscan? It doesn’t appear to be.
It’s easier to get sympathy support and votes for promoting the feeding of hungry kids more rather than feeding obese kids less.
Green marketing creates other issues – last election they promoted a solar energy policy and specifically ruled out energy conservation (double glazing) because it wasn’t their current focus.
Maybe if they succeed in getting state funded lunches this term then next term they might change there focus to what is described as a growing problem.
NZ Herald: Obesity epidemic reaching crisis levels.
Maybe the Greens will fix that after they’ve fixed hungry kids.
Their website is currently promoting Reducing Child Poverty “For a fairer society”.
Not so prominent (but if you search you can also find) Tackling childhood obesity is not rocket science Minister, but it is science
“The scientists have outlined an approach to tackling obesity which they say is “eminently doable”, but the Government won’t do it, preferring instead to watch a generation of children lose years off their lives,” Mr Hague said.
“Just like its approach to climate change, and water quality, scientists are saying this Government is not doing enough to reduce childhood obesity.
“Our childhood obesity epidemic requires the Government to regulate the environment that’s causing that obesity, through measures such as bans on promotion of unhealthy food to kids, ensuring food sold at schools and ECE centres is healthy.
But reducing food intake is a harder political sell than feeding hungry kids so it doesn’t get the same level of attention.
Political marketing is easier than comprehensively dealing with political and social realities.
It wouldn’t look very fair if fat kids were separated from skinny kids at schools and denied a free lunch.
Hunger versus obesity should be Green dilemma, but you wouldn’t know it from their campaigning.