Dunne won’t “Feed the Kids”

Hone Harawira has a Feed the Kids bill:

The Bill aims to set up government funded breakfast and lunch programmes in all decile 1-2 schools.

The Bill is expected to come before Parliament for its first reading on Wednesday 5 June.  So far Labour, Greens, Maori Party, NZ First, and Independent MP Brendan Horan have agreed to support it.  We need one more vote to get it passed and to a select committee for further consideration.

Peter Dunne’s vote would be the one that makes the difference to get this bill passed on the first vote. I asked him if he would support it. Dunne responded:

I fully understand what is intended by this essentially laudable proposals, but I think it is fundamentally flawed for a number of reasons.

Of course, there is a significant number of children who go to school to hungry, because they have not been properly fed at home, and of course poor nutrition has an adverse effect on learning and the subsequent development of the child. That is not the issue – rather, the question is what is the best way of addressing this problem.

At one level, the idea of meals in schools is superficially attractive, but it is essentially palliative, and does little to deal with the circumstances of these children on a long term basis.

Then there is the question of which group of children should we be focusing on. After all, not all children in schools will come from the same socio-economic backgrounds. So, should such a programme be applied universally, which would be as expensive as it would be impractical, or should it be more tightly targeted?

And if so, how? Should, for example, it just apply in low decile schools, even though there will children in those schools from a higher socio-economic status who would not need such a programme?

In that event, what about low-income household children in higher decile schools? Or, to get around income definition problems, should the children of beneficiaries be the only ones eligible?

Whatever way one looks at the issue, the definitional problems are massive, and strongly suggest that such a programme would not only be unsustainable, but also impractical, and in a number of cases potentially inequitable.

That is why I take the view that a much more realistic and workable approach is to target directly, through early identification by community agencies, at risk families and to work with them to help them  get the support they need to properly feed their children.

That support could take any number of forms, depending on individual circumstances, including direct assistance with the provision of food, at one end of the scale, through to such things as life skills advice on cooking, for example, and proper budget advice at the other end of the scale.

Such a targeted approach is far more likely to succeed in the long term, and benefit directly at-risk children, and would have my full support. 

So that looks like a no for the Harawira bill.

Dunne makes a strong argument for a far more targeted approach at the source of the problems (and there are multiple problems that need addressed).

22 Comments

  1. Darryl

     /  7th May 2013

    I agree with Peter Dunne, 100%. Families that are not feeding there children, or can’t afford to feed there children should be targeted, and help applied where needed, not just a Universal feed the children. Long term that would not be sustainable, and what happens at holiday’s etc. Getting hysterical about it is not the answer, and parents have got to be made responsible.

    • “Families that are not feeding there children, or can’t afford to feed there children should be targeted, and help applied where needed, not just a Universal feed the children.”

      Fine. So why isn’t it happening?

      “Long term that would not be sustainable, and what happens at holiday’s etc. ”

      Really? Funny how our Scandinavian and British cuzzies are managing to do it.

      “Getting hysterical about it is not the answer, and parents have got to be made responsible.”

      Yeah, never mind that a $300 rent takes most of a $450 minimum wage or unemployment benefit. Let’s make the kids pay for our stuff-ups.

      Have I got it right?

      Nice to see good, solid Kiwi priorities being exhibited here.

      As for Dunne’s letter – congratulations. It is the best Do Nothing response I’ve yet read. Full of pious justification why we shouldn’t lift a finger to help.

      But as we all know, it’s the kids fault. They should have chosen better families to be born into.

  2. Goldie

     /  7th May 2013

    Peter Dunne is bang on here. There is a boy in my son’s class who goes to (a high decile) school without breakfast and with a packet of chips for lunch. Last winter he went to school wearing light clothes and the Mum had to be told to dress her boy appropriately. I am not sure that it isn’t that she doesn’t care for her boy. I think that it is a matter of culture – the Mum seems to be oblivious to the norms that other parents understand about preparing children for school. Targeting free food at low decile schools isn’t going to help this boy.
    The answer is first,making clear to parents what expectations are, and then identifying thos eparents who are not doing what they should and enforcing those expectations – a parent who does not feed their child is commiting child abuse.

    • Yes, good point. It’s not just decile 1 and 2 where there are problems. And kids that aren’t being fed properly are likely to be lacking in other things as well, like clothes, but there are also quite likely to be other issues at home as well.

      These need to be identified and dealt with, rather than papering over on crack in one school decile group.,

      • “These need to be identified and dealt with, rather than papering over on crack in one school decile group.,”

        Pete… you call feeding hungry children “papering over cracks”?

        Read that out loud, to yourself, and tell us how it sounds. Be honest.

        Y’know, I’d like to take you and Dunne to one of our local low decile schools. Perhaps you can explain to them why they have to remain hungry because, and I quote,

        “…the definitional problems are massive, and strongly suggest that such a programme would not only be unsustainable, but also impractical, and in a number of cases potentially inequitable.”

        We can’t have “inequitable” feeding of hungry children, can we? That might be ” impractical”.

    • “Targeting free food at low decile schools isn’t going to help this boy.”

      So what you’re really saying is that we have to let children starve, in order to teach parents a lesson?

      I mean, really, what’s the WORST thing that can happen here? That kids from impoverished or dysfunctional or financially-stressed families – get fed?

      • “So what you’re really saying is that we have to let children starve, in order to teach parents a lesson?”

        That’s a pathetic accusation Frank, and I’m not saying that at all.

        How many kids are starving? Grossly exaggerating the problem and making wild accusations don’t help your argument.

        What happens during the weekend and school holidays? If you don’t address the root of the problems you are applying band aid solutions, some of the time.

        Government and non-govermaent organisations and businesses are already addressing problems including feeding kids in aschools, never enough but things are being done now.

        Claiming it’s “do this or the kids will starve” is little more than attempted emotional blackmail.

        • Darryl

           /  10th May 2013

          Your absolutely right Pete. No one wants to see children starving. But applying a band aid is not going to fix the problem.

  3. Alison Deaker

     /  10th May 2013

    Thanks Frank. I went to a low decile school in the 1980’s and worked in the canteen at school, as a volunteer pupil, even then we gave out free milkshakes to the children that we saw not eating at lunch time, in particular to one family where the poor kiddies use to wrap up blocks of wood every day in newspaper to “pretend” they had a lunch. These self righteous MP bastards in MOH that can buy a different tie for the day to appear in Parliament need to understand kids are starving more than ever. . My 16 year old daughter is a type 1 diabetic through no fault of her own and injects insulin 5 times a day and now suffering from a crap decision by the MOH and Pharmac over a done deal with cheap crap meters from South Korea, that do NOT pick up hypo’s or hypers, which has placed lives at risk, particularly young children and babies,and the elderly. She is also coeliac and I know of many Mothers on budgets than cannot feed these children like my daughter properly, so a breakfast at school might just save their lives or a free fruit policy. As Tony Ryall knows type 1 diabetes is a life threatening condition that can happen to any child in New Zealand, these children need help within the schools food wise. You have to walk in some peoples shoes to understand their lives,; I have, but I doubt Peter Dunne has and I know Tony Ryall has not. So why do they think they are qualified to make decisions about these childrens lives?

  4. A policy to offer fod to all kids but just in decile 1 and decile 2 schools is a flawed piecemeal solution. Most kids aren’t covered by it, and most kids it covers will be fed adequately already.And there are already milk, fruit and food schemes in place.

    I know of one place where free meals are provided for teenagers. Free breakfatss are hardly eaten. And often the kids choose buying fast food instead of having free lunches.

    Addressing this is complex and needs much more thought than a blanket approach for one part of the population.

  5. Sarah

     /  10th May 2013

    The Feed the Kids Bill is meant to be a ‘starting point’, obviously beginning with Decile 1 and 2 schools, and hopefully, the nation will see how beneficial this will be and will roll it out to all other schools across the country. You have to start somewhere right? Oh and we are much better off feeding these kids nutritious meals ourselves as it is costing us dearly caring for these kids as they grow up and need more and more health care to deal with the various conditions that arise from eating poorly (i.e.. diabetes, obesity, heart disease etc etc)

  6. Theodore

     /  10th May 2013

    Good points, Frank. We need to have these kids fed now, and not put up with any of this self-centered neo-liberal crap that Dunne is putting out.

    Pete George – I assume you’re writing your blogposts after dinner? Must be nice to have a full belly.

    Pete: “A policy to offer fod to all kids but just in decile 1 and decile 2 schools is a flawed piecemeal solution.”

    Rubbish. Tell that to a starving kid!!! Where do you get off labelling food for hungry kids as “piecemeal”????? Damn, how self-centered can you neo-libs get????

    Frank:“So what you’re really saying is that we have to let children starve, in order to teach parents a lesson?”

    Pete:”That’s a pathetic accusation Frank, and I’m not saying that at all.””

    No, that’s PRECISELY what you’re inferring Pete. Own your comments. That’s exactly the consequences of your words.

    • Darryl

       /  10th May 2013

      Theodore, why don’t you take your anger out on the irresponsible parents. Peter Dunne is absolutely right, and so is Pete George. Each case of starving child, should be referred to the authorities, and checked out as to why they are not feeding there children.

    • Theodore, it is not what I inferred, and I have made it clear it wasn’t what I meant, so it’s dishonest of you to repeat that accusation.

      And try looking up what piecemeal – that’s exactly what this Mana approach is.

  7. Ovicula

     /  10th May 2013

    United Future – champions at making excuses. It’d be more honest to get some backbone and say you don’t see poor kids as a priority, rather than this weak rubbish. Give a few kids a decent meal and they might even find the energy to solve some of the problems themselves. Talk about how it’s piecemeal and how some kid at a posh school might be missing out too and you’re just part of the problem.

    • You’ve got no idea what my priorities are – and it’s not United Future. And I’m not making excuses for anything.

      Nonsense accusations, abuse and attempts to guilt are about the worst way you could try and get things done.

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