Health Coalition Aotearoa (HCA) wholeheartedly supports the recommendation to expand Ka Ora Ka Ako – Healthy School Lunches in the latest release of Growing Up in New Zealand data.
HCA Food Policy Expert Panel member and dietitian Mafi Funaki-Tahifote says the data provides a glimpse of whānau struggling with food insecurity but that she sees worse on the ground.
“Every single person I speak to in my clinics says the skyrocketing cost of food makes putting healthy kai on the table and in kids’ lunchboxes harder than it has ever been.
“This data is serious and tells us we need urgent action to help people right now. One of the best ways we can support whānau with the cost-of-living crisis is to at least double Ka Ora Ka Ako, which only covers 25% of schools.
“By ensuring at least one nutritious meal a day, we can also give our tamariki and rangatahi the best chance to thrive at school.”
Ms Funaki-Tahifote says the other clear picture from the data is the persistent ethnic inequity around who experiences food insecurity. She says we need an overarching national strategy to address this, in addition to short-term action.
“Pasifika and Māori already faced huge food and income insecurity. It’s no surprise that we’re being hit inequitably far harder now and it’s totally unacceptable.
“Nutrition is about everything, it touches health, employment and even our education system. So, the only way we can reduce those inequities is through broad social and economic change.
“We need a National Food and Nutrition Strategy that creates a just and equitable food system that empowers communities to lead healthier and more sustainable lives.”