A petition is being presented at parliament today asking that the number of healthy school lunches be doubled. This seems a world away from my time at school when doubling one’s lunch involved a clandestine run to the takeaway bar at the end of the road for a scoop of hot chips.
The issue today is much more serious.
Health Coalition Aotearoa will present the petition signed by more than 100 schools, PPTA and NZEI unions and more than 60 health and community organisations.
They say the school lunches programme is not reaching every child in need, with only 25 per cent of schools currently eligible. A study showed 16 per cent of students surveyed in mid-decile primary schools and 12 per cent in high-decile schools had either run out of food at home, or had simply gone to school hungry.
Programme spokesperson Dr Te Morenga said schools want to see a long-term commitment to helping feed schoolchildren in need, no matter the result of the general election.
“The cost-of-living crisis is pushing many whānau to a tipping point,” she said, adding some children from middle-income families were now experiencing food insecurity for the first time.
The petition comes as the cost of fuel is about to rise. The government’s fuel subsidy started in March last year, and brought significant cost reductions for motorists. The subsidy ends on Friday, as well as the discount on road user charges and half-price public transport for most adults.
People are being warned to fill up at the pump early to avoid possible shortages, with some of the more apocalyptic saying places could even run out.
With rising fuel, though, the cost of almost everything transported can be expected to rise with it. Food and medicine come to mind. All of life’s necessities will become more expensive.
Almost every visit to the supermarket now brings gasps of shock as essentials seem to be priced more like luxuries. Last week, courgettes were almost $13 a kilo. Kiwifruit recently hit what must be a record Tokyo-priced $17 a kilo, but have since come down.
Some of these price hikes have been weather-related, but foodbanks, already working round the clock across the region, will almost certainly see a rise in clientele.
Last month, a New Zealand Food Network survey of 51 of its food hubs found that, since the pandemic hit, there had been a 165 per cent increase in the number of people receiving food support. More than two-thirds of those surveyed were feeding more people than in 2020. A staggering total of more than half a million people were being supported by those food hubs every month.
We are a food-producing nation, yet we see increasingly more New Zealanders unable to afford food. Kids are going to school hungry, and their parents are trying to make ends meet by using the local foodbank.
How can it be that food poverty is now a fact of life for about 10 per cent of New Zealand’s population?
More people are falling into the poverty trap and have no obvious way out.