Kiwi pre-schoolers ‘fainting from hunger’

Dramatic claims of neglect of children, but key questions aren’t asked let alone answered.

Newshub:  Kiwi pre-schoolers fainting from hunger, charity claims

A charity supporting vulnerable schoolchildren is now expanding its services to pre-schoolers.

KidsCan is launching a nationwide programme to provide food and clothing for under-fives.

Chief executive Julie Chapman says it is a major problem.

“We have reports of children fainting from hunger, young babies coming in without formula or nappies.”

That sound bad, and probably is bad, but how bad? Are they isolated examples, or common examples?

The latest programme was trialled in Northland, Auckland and Hawke’s Bay last year. Ms Chapman says it will reach around 2000 people, once it reaches its funding target.

“That covers right now around 1000 children, and our aim is to expand that to cover another 1000 kids. We really need caring Kiwis to get on board.”

Are ‘caring Kiwis’ the appropriate target here. What about the parents who aren’t caring for their children adequately. Some care at the bottom of the cliff may be warranted, but the causes should be addressed.

She says the charity is responding to a high demand for help.

“We’ve been contacted by so many early childhood centres that have a huge need for their children in terms of clothing, head line treatment and food.”

KidsCan already operates in more than 700 schools across the country, providing food, clothing and supplies.

The Children’s Commissioner estimates around 290,000 Kiwi kids live in low-income families, and nearly half of those miss out on basic necessary items.

What is defined as “basic necessary items” for 100,000 children is quite different to pre-schoolers fainting from hunger. How many children are that poorly fed? I would be surprised if ten children have actually fainted from hunger at a pre-school.

“Every child deserves the best start in life and to grow up and reach their potential free of the burden of poverty,” Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said last year at the release of the 2017 Child Poverty Monitor report, which contained the shocking figures.

I’m sure there are shocking cases of neglect, but implying this affects hundreds of thousands of children is disingenuous.

As opposed to vague anecdotal claims, what are the facts?

How many children are there who are really deprived and neglected?

What are the reasons for this deprivation and neglect?

What can best be done to address this?

Perhaps these things are known, but more dramatic but vague and generalised claims suit public appeals for sympathy and money.

I think these problems should be properly quantified, and resources should then concentrate on targeting them.

On canning Kidscan funding

RNZ: KidsCan may lose govt funding: ‘Children will go hungry’

The charity, which has been in operation for 12 years, provides food, clothing and healthcare to 168,000 children across 700 New Zealand schools.

Executive Julie Chapman told Checkpoint with John Campbell she was told last week by Oranga Tamariki / Ministry for Children that it would lose its government funding – $350,000 worth – on 1 July next year.

Hunger versus obesity – a Green dilemma?

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.

KidsCan favours targeting the 1 in 11 hungry kids

David Shearer has announced Labour policy”to get free food into all decile 1 to 3 schools”. The charity KidsCan supports this but favours business, the community and government working together and targeting the most needy children.

A children’s charity supports Labour leader David Shearer’s policy to give free daily meals to all children in low decile schools, but believes a targeted approach to supporting the most needy children should be the key focus.

KidsCan Charitable Trust said it supported business, the community and government working together to address the issue of children going to school hungry.

KidsCan chief executive Julie Chapman said there was a responsibility to ensure the most vulnerable children were receiving the basics they needed to get to and through the school gates in a position to learn.

“Schools and teachers have enough to do without worrying about where they will get the funding to continue to provide food on an ongoing basis for children who are going hungry.”

But she said a targeted, discrete approach which supported the most needy children in a school with food that could be given at any time of the day was the most effective and financially prudent approach.

“As the Prime Minister said today, not all children in low decile schools need a food programme. What is needed, however, is a national food strategy and we believe we have, over the past seven years, developed a sustainable model which has proven positive educational outcomes.”

According to Kidscan, one in 11 kids in the four lowest deciles are hungry at school.

Targeting hungry kids in all schools makes more sense rather than taking over feeding responsibilities from all parents in some schools.