Milk is a good start

DANIELLE STREET
Last updated 05:00 26/12/2012

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The headmaster of a decile two primary school says that while Fonterra's new milk scheme will be good for students, a government-driven food-in-schools programme would be beneficial for the whole community.

The dairy giant will be rolling out the Milk In Schools scheme in the new year to classrooms nationwide after deeming its Northland pilot programme a success.

Schools that opt-in to the scheme will receive a 180ml bottle of milk for each student daily.

Principal Lynda Stuart says the programme will lend a helping hand to May Road School, which feeds students through contributions.

In September the Central Leader visited the Mt Roskill primary school that five years ago began giving children breakfasts and lunches - paid for by the school or through gifts from businesses. Soon, other organisations such as KidsCan charity and Sanitarium came on board and donated food for the kids.

"If you want them to learn you need to feed them and they can't be hungry. It's pretty obvious to our classroom teachers that when they aren't hungry they learn better," Mrs Stuart says.

She says the community has since offered sundries such as spreads and cereal.

The new Milk in Schools initiative will also help.

"The children get milk with their cereal and occasionally they will get a glass of milk but it depends on how many are coming to Breakfast Club," Mrs Stuart says.

"If there are 30 or 40 coming then there isn't much left over at the end of the week."

She is glad about the extra milk but says a food-in-schools programme as recommended to the Government by the Children's Commissioner's expert group earlier this month would be a great help.

"We feed a number of children lunch but it's not really a substantial lunch unless we get given the bread and something to go on it," she says.

"The food-in-schools would be really beneficial to some of our families."

The recommendation was one of 80 from the expert group to tackle child poverty.

Food-in-schools was promoted as one of the least costly and easiest measures to implement for improving conditions for many children.

Other "low cost" recommendations included establishing a Warrant of Fitness for all rental housing and pass-on child support payments to sole parents who are on a state-provided benefit.

The Child Poverty Action Group supports the call for food-in-schools, saying there is every reason to believe food insecurity remains an issue for many families.

Spokeswoman Donna Wynd says at an estimated cost of $25-30 million a year it is a "cheap investment" in the future wellbeing of the nation's children.

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- © Fairfax NZ News

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