“Leaks” of the content of Thursday’s budget, indicate that the government has responded to pressure for tackling child poverty and affordable housing. As in Eddie’s post this morning, ‘Stealth privatistion of housing in the budget‘, it looks like the government is also planning to out-source feeding children in schools to private business.
Last night, John Campbell certainly seemed to have picked up on this move to make businesses central to blunting the edge of child poverty. On the Thursday’s budget, Campbell says:
We believe they are going to announce initiatives to get more milk and food into schools.
Campbell welcomes this as an urgent need for children living in poverty. However he also believes that the government is going to make deals with private enterprise to provide this. This would be an extension of Fonterra’s milk in schools project, with more businesses becoming involved.
However, Campbell is concerned that organisations that are already doing great work on the ground will be marginalised and not get any increase in funding: organisations like KidsCan and the Aranui Community Trust in Christchurch. Campbell argues that such organisations have expertise on the ground that includes and goes beyond supplying food. They have the skills and systems necessary for identifying, and responding to, health and other problems related to poverty. They also approach their work with children in a way that aims to treat them with dignity.
However, provisions for a basic need should not be left largely to charities and/or businesses. It should be a core provision by the state. In the development of Hone Harawira’s private member Education (Breakfast and Lunch in Schools) Amendment Bill this is recognised. A Fact Sheet on the web page for the Bill, known as the ‘Feed the Kids’ Bill, commends charitable organisations for their work, but recognises their limitations:
Key organisations such as Every Child Counts, the Child Poverty Action Group, and the Children’s Commissioner’s Expert Advisory Group – have recommended food programmes in schools as an immediate way to help address child poverty in New Zealand. The Bill also recognises the importance of charities, businesses, and school volunteers currently involved in food in schools programmes and they will be important to the success of this policy, but reliance on charity and volunteers is often uncertain, especially in difficult economic times.
State funded breakfast and lunch programmes will bring certainty and ensure that all children in decile 1 and 2 schools are able to learn at school and be well on an on-going basis.
How would the Feed the Kids programme work?
Government would provide funding to ensure all decile 1 and 2 schools are able to provide nutritional breakfasts and lunches to all their students.The bill gives schools the flexibility to implement practices that work best for them.
Part of the funding would be used to employ somebody to co-ordinate the programme.
This person would work with local businesses, charitable organisations, other schools, community networks, and of course school families themselves, to buy food and prepare meals.
The funding will also cover all food costs although donations of food will still be welcomed.
The government is likely to be trying to provide cover for not supporting Harawira’s Bill. It is therefore a good move by Harawira to delay the first reading of the Bill until 10 July as announced today:
“It also gives me more time to persuade ACT, United Future, and National MPs that the Bill deserves to go to Select Committee.”
“Government recognises the need for food in schools programmes, and they clearly support the need for a public discussion on how best to run them here in Aotearoa. What I’m asking is simple: that they support the Bill at first reading so select committee can hear from experts and interested members of the public.”
Harawira argues that usually families and communities should be responsible for feeding children, but that the immediate poverty is so widespread and serious, the government needs to step in. Ultimately, adequate food and other provisions can be ensured by better pay and social security provisions rather than relying on charity or the private sector. The exorbitant profiteering by some corporates is part of the problem, and, given their current ethos, will never be part of a long term solution.