Maori Party supports Feed the Kids but doesn’t?

It seems that the Maori Party would vote for Mana’s “Feed the Kids” bill. Felix Marwick has tweeted:


Re food in schools. Maori Party says it will support Harawira Bill. I’m unsure how keen they are though.

He links to an audio clip of Tariana Turia who says:

Well I think we need to build whanau capacity to take care of their own. I’m really not a supporter of people outside of the family feeding the children.

That’s a contrast to Hone Harawira’s preference for the state taking responsibility for feeding children in schools. This morning he said on Firstline:

It’s time for the Government to provide for every child.

Mana’s bill was due to have it’s first vote in parliament today and was expected to not have enough votes. Harawira has just had the bill deferred and will be now introduced in July, to give him more time to try and get sufficient support.

In the meantime National is expected to announce more food in school measures in tomorrows budget.

Feed the Kids – unanswered questions

It’s very difficult to get answers on important questions about the Mana led Feed the Kids campaign. A more typical response to queries is this from Martyn Bradbury at The Daily Blog:

And i think you reek of poverty denial and are floundering badly in terms of offering up any actual argument against feeding the poorest children in the poorest schools with your crocodile tears about all the other kids. You are using that as a barrier to progress.

After your baby boomer nostalgia and inflated hysteria over the cost you actually offer nothing to the debate.

Very ironic being accused of “floundering badly in terms of offering up any actual argument”, Bradbury has been short on argument and long on inflated criticisms. He has avoided answering questions, responding instead with abuse.

I have tried to debate on facts but they are hard to come by.

How many hungry kids?

The Feed the Kids fact sheet quotes a common number:

Using official household income statistics, it is estimated that 270,000 (25%) children live in poverty…

That is an often quoted figure, but it’s based on statistics and does not measure how many kids go hungry. And the website makes no attempt to quantify it.

Because of that level of poverty many children go to school without a proper breakfast and lunch.

Frank Macskasy’s Daily Blog post Why Peter Dunne won’t “Feed the Kids” was as vague.

Many are going to school without breakfast or lunch.

That’s a major omission in their argument. The Community Campaign for Food in Schools does put a figure on it:

…an estimated 80,000 children regularly arriving at school hungry…

I don’t know what criteria or research that is based on. It’s a lot of kids, but far less than the poverty figure.

How many kids go to school?

According to School Roll Summary Report: July 2011 there were 2,548 schools with 758,094 enrolled children.

That makes an estimate of 10.5% of hungry children.

How many in decile 1-2 schools?

Decile 1-2 schools are 20% of schools but have only 14.8% of children at school – higher decile schools tend to have have bigger rolls. That’s about 112,000 children.

How many hungry kids in decile 1-2 schools?

I can’t find any breakdown on that, but it must be less than the estimated total of 80,000 hungry kids but it will be higher than the 10.5% (which would be 11,580).

How much is the Feed the Kids policy?

Mana have costed their policy at $100 million per year. That’s $890 per year per child, or $17 per week.

Assuming that less then half of decile 1-2 children are ‘hungry’ that is $34-$50 per week per hungry child.

Is the money best spent across all children who go to the schools? Or would it be better targeted at families who would benefit the most?

Just a start?

A number of people say the policy is just a beginning. Bradbury:

We need universal food schemes like they run in most developed country’s around the world.

Mana Party policy:

MANA policy priorities are to:

Provide healthy meals for all children at school.

If Feed the Kids was extended to all schools the cost would $600-700 million per year.

Is feeding all kids in schools the best way to spend this amount of money?

Is this what parents want?

I think more information and more debate on this is necessary.

Abusing anyone who questions whether the Mana bill is the most sensible approach will condemn the bill to failure, and will discredit the motives of the bill’s supporters.

And that won’t help any kids.

Perhaps there will be some more immediate assistance anyway, this year’s budget will be revealed on Thursday.

For the record – I’m interested in exploring options and discussing/debating the hungry kids and poverty issues. I don’t hate kids. I don’t want poverty to get worse. I don’t want kids to starve. Frank, Martyn et al – how about some mature debate?

More information: Hunger for Learning brochure


“Feed the kids” all berate, no debate

Martyn Bradbury claims “These are not the rational debates of a person who wants to contribute” – as he rants and rages while ignoring important questions about Mana’s Feed the Kids campaign that is being supported at The Daily Blog.

I have tried to offer different ideas and engage in discussion, but most of the response is berate, no debate. This makes me wonder if all Mana and it’s bill supporters want to do is try and score political points, and the “poor kids” are being used.

From the latest threads in Why Peter Dunne won’t “Feed the Kids”:


Pete — did you receive free milk when you were at school? Did you have to go to the dental nurse?

Food in schools is merely the same thing as the free milk in school initiated, as well as the school dental nurses, so I get a feeling that you would have opposed those programmes as well had you been a blogger in the 1930′s.

Or is it that you just generally oppose any universal taxpayer program because you are just ideologically opposed to public social welfare type programs, and it should be just Tory charity.

My response:

It’s nonsensical suggesting I oppose all social welfare because I’m questioning whether the Mana bill is the best way to address a problem.

Dunne is suggesting an alternative state funded approach, and I agree with that more than I agree with Mana’s bill, which I think is well intended but misguided.

We have an extensive (and expensive) social welfare system and I agree with the need for most of that. Families and kids are already extensively assisted by the state.

I think smarter better targeted assistance would help kids more than feeding a lot when a few are hungry while not addressing the causes of the problem.

If half a billion dollars a year was available to help kids do you really think feeding all kids in school would be the best use of that money?

Martyn Bradbury took over from there:

But Pete, where are all your glorious stories of baby boomer rose tinted glasses of yore??? Yell us about the magical world before user pays uncle Pete, measure them against todays standards and tell us all how lucky we are.

We need universal food schemes like they run in most developed country’s around the world. We all appreciate from your great vantage point that the suffering of children is a more academic thing to be spoken of in wide brushes, but for those of us who have to inherit your corrupted legacy, we’d like to make change now and feeding the kids in the lowest two deciles does that.

At $100m per year it is not half a billion dollars at all, so please at least stick to the facts while you rush around to defend Peter Dunne’s inaction.

Poverty denial is as low as climate denial.

We don’t NEED universal food schemes. They are one of a number of possible options.

It’s said to be $100m for decile 1-2 schools. Some have said the obvious, that’s just a beginning, for 20% of kids. You have implied that too – a universal food in schools scheme would be closer to half a billion dollars. That’s simple maths.

Do you think a universal food in schools programme would be the best use of half a billion dollars a year?

You are lying again – it is $100million per year it is not half a billion dollars. If you can’t spin lines from yesteryear do you just make shit up in the present do you Pete?

Perhaps you didn’t understand my point.

How much do you think a universal food in schools programme would cost per year?

I understand perfectly well, you are justifying your political inaction on this issue and so have attempted to inflate the annual cost by $400 million to desperately make your invalid and extremely weak point.

That’s pretty obvious.

Or putting it another way, is spending $100m per year feeding all kids in decile 1-2 schools better than feeding all hungry kids across all deciles?

If feeding hungry kids is seen as an urgent priority then surely suggesting excluding hungry kids in deciles 3-10 will condemn you to Jackal’s hell.

LMAO – let me get this straight shall we? After all your spin attacks against the feed the kids bill, your fall back position after all the rose tinting pre-user pays baby boomer crap is ‘what about the hungry kids at other schools????’

That’s the best poverty denial you can muster is it Pete? We shouldn’t target the poorest children in the poorest classes because there might be some other hungry kids in other schools?

Well that nonsense argument might be all that needs to intellectually justify your inaction on this issue, it isn’t mine Pete.

“What about the hungry kids at other schools” is an important point.

If you and Mana thought that feeding hungry kids was an urgent need then you would support a policy that would feed hungry kids, not feed kids in 20% of schools and exclude many hungry kids going to other schools.

And if you were serious about hungry kids you would be considering the many kids who don’t go to school – good nutrition for babies and infants is at least as important as food for kids who go to school.

And nutrition of pregnant women is also vital for the wellbeing of babies.

Isn’t it?

Yawn – your attempt to show you ‘care’ for the other hungry children is just sad far right tactics to do nothing. The MANA bill is focused on the poorest kids in the poorest schools – for you to dare stand there and write that effort off because it won’t feed all kids is hysterical because you have no bloody intention of feeding the other kids Pete.

All we’ve heard from you is ‘I was poor (during full state assistance) and it didn’t hurt me’ to lying about it costing half a billion per year to ‘we can’t feed the poorest kids in the poorest schools because it won’t feed other hungry kids’.

These are not the rational debates of a person who wants to contribute, they are hard right poverty denial.

Gotta laugh at “These are not the rational debates of a person who wants to contribute“.

Trying to engage in debate seems futile.

I think there are serious questions about targeted assistance and addressing the causes of the problems versus a bill that only addresses one symptom, feeding all of the kids in just 20% of schools whether they are hungry or not.

Serious debate doesn’t seem to be on the Mana menu. Absent any arguments all they seem to be able to do is berate.

The bill will probably have failed anyway because it is a flawed approach to a much wider, more complex problem.

But it is certainly doomed if it’s supporters can only resort to attempts at emotional blackmail and abuse while ignoring legitimate questions.


Vile Blogpost of The F—-n Year

The degree of vitriol for suggesting a different approach to dealing with some kids being hungry at school is quite surprising – and having been around the blogosphere for a few years I’ve seen a lot of political vitriol.

The Daily Blog has had blog posts on the issue, and one specifically directed at what I posted here recently. See:

These posts and some comments, as well as comments here, have been at times over the top. The Daily Blog also has a daily roundup of blog posts, and in The Daily Blog Watch Thursday 9 April they included:

Vile Blogpost of The F—-n Year

From Peter Dunne:  Dunne won’t “Feed the Kids”

To hades with your black heart, Dunne.

Remember, that’s simply because Dunne suggested something different – he disagreed with the blanket Feed the Kids bill and prefers a more targeted  approach.

But it’s not all heavy duty attack politics, there can be lighter moments.  In Why Peter Dunne won’t “Feed the Kids” a comment by Jackal:

In my opinion you, Pete George, should feel ashamed for supporting Dunne’s wretched and fasle justifications for doing nothing… Don’t be expecting to walk through the pearly gates with such an attitude.

Gotta laugh at that, being told I won’t go to heaven for not supporting a Mana Party bill. The last time I was told I won’t go to heaven was recently, for supporting the marriage equality bill.

There’s a very good reason for separating religion from politics.

There’s poverty and there’s NZ ‘poverty’

Euan Ross-Taylor  questions the use of the term ‘poverty’ in a New Zealand context, and suggests how the problem of hungry kids could be dealt with. He commented at Whale Oil:

Poverty is what needs to be addressed – not child poverty. Parents need to be taught that purchase of ‘luxury’ items when children go without basics is child neglect.

And also:

I want to add here that I spent 10 years working with true poverty overseas among the homeless (squattors).

The language being used by people over our ‘hungry’ children in NZ is silly. They are not as far as I have been made aware , ‘starving’. They go to school without eating breakfast. They are being fed the wrong diet.

My children did not eat breakfast before going to school. They are at university now and still choose not to eat what I would consider a proper breakfast, but then I was brought up on a farm where there were chores to be done before breakfast everyday. We enjoyed our breakfast.

As much as I do not want to put more work on teachers, I do think that identifying children who are hindered in their learning because of being hungry is/should be part of successful teaching practise.

Having a social worker attached to each school to follow up with the identified families would be much more helpful than blanket feeding programs.

If the families of these kids still continue their neglect, the social workers could have a budget to provide lunchbags to the said kids on arriving at school, until such time as the parents of said kids could be convinced one way or another to provide better for their children.

I can’t see why this is so difficult.

Sounds like a considered, sensible approach to me.

I hate children and want them to starve…

…is the sort of accusation being used by supporters of Mana’s “Feed the Kids” bill. Abuse like that has been directed at me.

The “you’re with us or against us” approach to promoting policy usually doesn’t work well.

Especially when “you’re against us” is extended to “if you don’t support a bill that does a little at the bottom of the cliff then you hate children and want them to starve”  style attacks are used to try and guilt people into changing their minds. It’s more likely to have the opposite effect.

Here are more examples of the emotive rhetoric being used to try and promote the “Feed the Kids” bill:

Frank Macskasy at The Daily Blog:

As a nation, it is almost as if we have embarked on a deliberate course of increasing poverty and ensuring the advent of the next generation of impoverished New Zealanders.

It’s ridiculous to suggest that anyone in New Zealand wants to embark on “a deliberate course of increasing poverty”.

Why is there money to subsidise irrigation in the South Island or grants to businesses – but not put a bloody bowl of fucking weetbix and milk in front of a starving kid???

Frank, the Government (actually the taxpayers) already give a considerable amount of money to families and directly and indirectly to children.

Ah, and did you realise that irrigation allows cows to produce milk for the Weetbix? And did you realise that milk was already being given to schools?

Macskasay again in a new blog post, Why Peter Dunne won’t “Feed the Kids”:

So what’s up with Peter Dunne and his awful, cold-hearted response to the crisis of child poverty afflicting this country?

One could imagine ACT and National MPs voting against the “Feed The Kids” Bill – those people either have freezer coolant in their veins, or are ideologically wedded to rugged Individualism and Personal Responsibility (except when National is held to account for it’s stuff-ups and policy failures) that includes perpetuating poverty on a nationwide scale.

That sort of language is what you would expect from a activist wanting to try and score political points, not someone who genuinely wants to try and get support for a bill. Abuse and overstatement rarely gets anyone to change their minds.

And in comments on a previous post here, Macskasy:

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

I said nothing like that, nor do I think that. Theodore disagreed:

…that’s PRECISELY what you’re inferring Pete. Own your comments. That’s exactly the consequences of your words.

Actually Frank was referring to someone else’s comment. I didn’t infer anything of the sort. But disagreeing on the best way to deal with the problem results in bizarre accusations without any foundation.

And Martin Bradbury has joined the accusers:

But it’s true Pete. If you allow your self sanctimonious and astounding self-rightousness that blames the parents for hungry children as your justification of not supporting feeding the kids – you do hate children.

Pathetic nonsense.

The very people who sing the ‘blame the parents’ right wing song and dance routine are the exact same fucking people who have NO IDEA that the mother of all budgets set the benefits just below the nutritional minimums so that those on welfare are hungry enough to not want to stay on welfare.

Blaming the parents is a disgusting cop out and should be denounced with the contempt it deserves.

Some parents are to blame.

Most parents see feeding their kids as a priority and do their best, some in difficult financial circumstances.

I grew up in a very poor household, often food was very basic but I always had food. Most of my clothes were hand me downs, I used to help my mother unpick old jerseys so they could be recycled, my socks sometimes had more darns than original wool, and the only family holiday we had I don’t remember because I was a baby at the time. My father had to get extra work, my mother worked night shifts. I know what it’s like being a poor kid. But I was never a starving kid, because food was always made available by my parents.

Some parents have addictions to things like drugs, alcohol, tobacco, gambling, and they don’t always put their children’s needs first.

And some parents are simply poor parents.

Excusing all parents of any blame and just giving them more money will not solve poor parenting.

And giving all kids more (kids already get substantial state assistance from before they are born) means there is less available for those who really need extra help.

But this debate is unlikely to address or solve any of the issues due to the nature of the debate – too much emotive and abusive rhetoric. It’s much easier to dismiss that than a reasoned and reasonable argument.

By the way, for the last ten years I have donated each month to a charity that helps families and communities to feed their kids better. I also provide support within my family, to my children and my grandchildren.

Of those of you who are making accusations that I and others hate kids and want kids to starve, how much do you personally contribute to feeding children?

Can we afford inefficient social welfare?

Frank Macskasy as posted a detailed plea at The Daily Blog to “feed the kids” in (some) schools:

Can we afford to have “a chat on food in schools”?

While no one wants to see kids going hungry this is ineffieciently throwing money at one small part of a much bigger problem, and it doesn’t even address any of the causes.

I commented the following on his post:

I see two significant problems.

There’s no dispute that some families really struggle, they really struggle caring for their kids, feeding them, clothing them, providing them with a decent place to live, giving them decent medical care.

Social welfare is not enough for many people. Wages and tax credits and other means of assitance are not enough for many people. And this obviously affects a lot of kids.

We also have a problem with a huge social welfare cost.

All governments have to make decisions about how much money is provided and how much is allocated to “people in need”.

There are a wide variety of circumstances and needs.

The country cannot afford to just keep giving more money across the board.

Choosing one small part of this problem like hungry kids in schools and giving a sub group of kids going to school more will help some kids, but it will also give to kids who don’t need it.

Mana say their Feed the Kids bill will cost about $100m a year. That’s not much out of the whole budget.


It gives more than is necessary, not all the targeted kids need it.

And you could pick many small groups to target. Governments have been doing this for decades. It helps some and gives more to others who don’t need it.

And all these small innefficiencies in targeting add up to huge inefficiencies.

And some like the Feed The Kids bill doesn’t even address the causes of the problem.

I don’t think trying to guilt people into supporting a small well meaning but inefficent programme to feed some kids helps.

There are much bigger problems that deserve far better attention.

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).