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No child to be left behind

Last year, 1561kg of food was supplied to Wairarapa schools. PHOTO/STOCK.ADOBE.COM

In the first of a three-part series on the various efforts to improve the well-being of Wairarapa pupils, education reporter TOM TAYLOR looks at the scale of KidsCan’s operation in the region, and how covid-19 has affected it.

As most children settle into the first term of a new school year, research for KidsCan by Colmar Brunton found that food insecurity is “just one aspect of the myriad of functional challenges” that some children face every day.

More than 90 per cent of the 400 schools surveyed said that food insecurity was a significant issue for their children.

Wairarapa pupils are no exception.

For many, donations of food, clothing, and health products mean the difference between participating in class or sitting on the sidelines while their peers overtake them.

Before the covid-19 pandemic, KidsCan provided food support for 30,000 children across New Zealand every day.

After the lockdown, that number had increased to 40,000 children.

The need for support had not eased towards the start of the new school year, even as unemployment levels dropped to 4.9 per cent in the wake of New Zealand’s lockdowns.

“We know that this back-to-school period is probably going to be one of the toughest for families because of the normal pressures of going back to school, but also off the back of covid-19 and many people losing their jobs,” KidsCan founder Julie Chapman said.

From Featherston to Woodville, KidsCan provided support for 12 schools.

Of those schools, five were in the Wairarapa District Council areas: Lakeview School, Mauriceville School, St Patrick’s School, and Te Kura Kaupapa Maori o Wairarapa, in Masterton; and Featherston School in South Wairarapa.

Last year, for those five schools alone, KidsCan provided 1561 kilograms – or 15,974 servings – of food to ensure no children went hungry.

However, food was not the only necessity, with many pupils requiring clothing and health items to participate in school activities.

“A pair of shoes obviously keeps your feet warm and dry and free from injury,” Chapman said, “but it also allows a child to participate and feel like they’re valued and part of the activities that other children are able to take part in.

“If your shoes have holes in them, or they are falling off because they are so old, you can’t participate, so you’re sidelined.”

The amount of food for Wairarapa pupils was likely to increase this year, with KidsCan supplying hot meals across all four school terms.

Last year, the charity had only supplied hot meals in Terms 2 and 3.

This year, for Term 1 alone, KidsCan had already processed 765kg – or 5844 servings – of food for the five Wairarapa schools.

That included 1924 servings of hot meals, 240 servings of baked beans, 1170 snack bars, 1050 packets of trail mix, and 320 servings of yoghurt.

  • On Monday, the Times-Age takes a closer look at the impact of KidsCan’s support for schools, and why it is needed. To donate to KidsCan, visit backtoschool.org.nz

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