HCA has launched a petition to extend free healthy lunches to more tamariki to support whānau in need
Whānau, principals and Māori health leaders are calling for free healthy lunches to be extended to more schools as Health Coalition Aotearoa releases new research from Talbot Mills showing strong support for doubling the Ka Ora Ka Ako school lunch programme.
“Ensuring that all children get one square healthy meal at day at school, no matter what’s going on at home, gives them every chance to succeed,” HCA co-chair Lisa Te Morenga says.
“Currently only 25% of schools are eligible to opt-in to the programme, with many children in need missing out. Our research shows 63% of people support doubling Ka Ora Ka Ako to cover half of all schools. This is even higher among Māori with 71% supporting the expansion. Parents know healthy kai means tamariki are more focused and better able to learn and that’s supported by health evidence.”
“Our petition seeks to double Ka Ora Ka Ako, which will lift up whānau who’re doing it tough at the moment, including those from middle-income brackets who may never have experienced food insecurity before,” she adds.
The research also shows 83% of people rated affordable healthy food in their top cost of living concerns, outstripping renting at 58% and petrol prices at 43%. House prices, electricity prices and insurance costs were even less commonly rated as top concerns. Māori and Pasifika were more likely to rate the cost of renting as their very top concern than other groups.
“It’s not surprising Māori are financially stressed across all categories, because the State has created a social system that disadvantages our hauora in nearly all areas. While there isn’t one easy fix for health equity, the Government can increase healthy school lunches right now. The Government should be looking at devolving that funding to communities, hapū and iwi while working on structural measures like a national food sovereignty and nutrition strategy,” Dr Te Morenga said.
Hawke’s Bay mother of three Jaime Katene-Taingahue says the free lunches are “a blessing”, saving her $60 a week on groceries, money that can go towards petrol and daycare fees.
“It’s a big help money-wise, saving a lot with groceries, and just not having to worry about it, not having to get up early to make their lunches, or making sure they have something in their bags, it just takes a lot of pressure off, especially in the morning when you’re trying to get the kids ready and out the door”.
Her 10-year-old son Javei Mareroa says he loves going to school on Fridays where the students receive a hot meal.
“One of my friends likes the same food I do, butter chicken, we both like it, we both enjoy having free food.”
Ngāti Toa Principal Kathleen O’Hare, on the Kapiti Coast, says kids are now coming to school who otherwise wouldn’t because of a lack of food.
“There’s stigma that used to come with not having any lunch. So now everyone is getting a lunch and those who haven’t previously been able to bring a lunch haven’t been standing out anymore and I think that’s really safe and good for them.”
Sunnynook Primary School Principal Virginia Montague says that while her school is ineligible for Ka Ora Ka Ako, there’s definitely a need for it.
“Last year we ran a parent-funded programme that supplied hot lunches daily for students. It made a big difference to attendance and parents said it took a lot of pressure off them knowing that their child had a nutritious meal during the day. However due to increased costs the providers weren’t able to keep it going.
“We’ve now reached out to local charities for funding as well as signing up to the Kickstart breakfast which has had a great impact on our kids’ engagement in class. But again, the costs of running these programmes are unsustainable, so having Ka Ora Ka Ako in our school would make a world of difference.”
Hāpai te Hauora Interim Chief Executive and HCA board member Jason Alexander says there’s been overwhelming demand for food packages in Tāmaki, with the floods adding increased pressure to already struggling whānau.
“Food security and food sovereignty is a big issue for Māori and until we can solve those, we will need policies like this that address the immediate food needs of whānau.”
“That’s why Hāpai Te Hauora is supporting the petition launched by HCA to double Ka Ora Ka Ako, alongside over 60 organisational members of HCA and over 200 individuals so far.”
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