I appreciate that the last week has been tough for leftie activists. Chris Hipkins’ unilateral ruling out meaningful change to the tax system has caused a number of us to take a deep breath. The Labour Party needs to work though this and see if his comment is actually part of the election manifesto but I will let others decide on that.
Act leader and Arnold Rimmer lookalike David Seymour has been busy shoring up support for Hipkins. By proposing a series of bat chit crazy policies that ordinary kiwis, when they realise the repercussions, will rebel against.
Like yesterday’s brain fart, when Act said that because there was a degree of wastage free school lunches should be stopped.
How much is the wastage?
The shock horror headline was that 10,000 school lunches were being wasted every day. This is an impressive number but when you think that a million school lunches are prepared each week this accounts for 5% of all prepared lunches. If there is a restaurant out there which has less than 5% wastage I would be pleased to know about them.
The claim is based on Treasury Budget advice to Jan Tinetti.
The advice said:
Evaluations of Ka Ora, Ka Ako to date have found strong outcomes for improving nutrient intake, particularly for those 7.3% of ākonga with least access to sufficient food at home. The programme generally contributes to happier and healthier ākonga overall.
However, the evaluations have found no impact on attendance, and ākonga Māori, who make up around 48% of students receiving the programme, have not benefited on most metrics, such as school functioning (e.g., paying attention in class), health, and mental wellbeing (with mental wellbeing worse off for those in the programme).
This is typically brutal Treasury speak and I am sure they did not ask any teacher who teaches in South or West Auckland what hunger does to a kid’s ability to their ability to learn or their behaviour. And the lingering effects of Covid have had its effect on attendance rates. To ignore this and complain that free school lunches have failed because attendances has not improved is just weird.
The advice also says:
There are also inefficiencies which need addressing, as 12% of lunches (around 10,000 per day) are currently surplus to requirements. MoE is working on a pilot Delivery to Attendance scheme to help manage this.
Treasury may wish to check its math because if a million lunches are delivered each week the wastage figure would be 5%. With either figure the proportion that is wasted is remarkably low.
The advice appears to rely on this review of the program completed in October 2022. The review said:
The evaluations of the pilot and expanded programme both demonstrated that Ka Ora, Ka Ako resulted in significantly happier and healthier ākonga across the different age groups and an overall better health quality of live. The most underserved ākonga benefitted even more than other ākonga . The longer-term benefits are not yet known but research suggests these programme benefits, and more broadly adopting healthy eating habits early in life, may lead to positive lifelong benefits for ākonga and more equitable outcomes for those most underserved ākonga.”
The review reported comments on the programme from a number of the schools which took part in the programme.
For instance the staff of Porirua School said about the programme “more than ever, right now, this programme is so important. I’ve had whanau in tears thanking me for the fact that we have the lunches because they are struggling so much”.
So why would you want to cancel a programme with considerable benefits for poor kids?
How about class prejudice?
From Act’s press release:
“The vast majority of parents can take care of their own kids. Politicians shouldn’t be taking over the job of parents. It sends the wrong message and undermines personal responsibility.
“No one will ever spend taxpayer’s money as carefully as their own.
Obviously in Act world it is better to let kids go hungry and ruin their education than it is to interfere with the market. A market that has been distorted that badly over the past four decades that there are obscene levels of wealth in Aotearoa at the same time that poor parents cannot afford to feed their kids.
National also has been critical and dismissive of the programme in the past and if there was a change of Government it would be pretty likely that the programme would be put on the chopping block. Tax cuts for the wealthy do not come out of thin air. They have to be paid for somehow.
I get the upset that Hipkins caused this week by ruling out a wealth tax. But the this election is between an existing Government that often achieves good or a potentially changed Government that would plunge the country back into the despair that I witnessed in the early 1990s.
Please get active. Support Labour or the Greens whichever is your kaupapa. We have to stop David Seymour and Co from seizing power because if they do they will wreck the place.