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Providing balance

KARINA ABADIA
Last updated 05:00 28/09/2012
Tihi Williams
Karina Abadia

ALL SMILES: Year 4 student Tihi Williams of Point England School gets a good start to his day.

PT England Students
Karina Abadia
HEALTHY START: Point England School students get ready for the day’s learning at their breakfast club. Clockwise from left: Taiaha Tahu, year 4, Auri Kama, year 5 and Leatham Teau, year 2.

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Principals do not want their students coming to school hungry. But finding a solution to the problem is a balancing act between provision and parental education.

Five decile 1 schools contacted by the East & Bays Courier regularly feed a minority of students through public and privately funded schemes.

KidsCan chief executive Julie Chapman says: "I think we need an immediate solution to the hunger issues and to take any judgment out of it."

The charity supports 223 schools across New Zealand but there are still 100 on the waiting list.

Glen Innes School is one of them. Twelve to 15 of around 165 enrolled students need to be regularly fed, principal Jonathan Hendricks says.

Pak'n Save Glen Innes donates rolls and bread and the school provides the spreads.

"I think the first responsibility should be with the parents. More education is needed to make sure they learn how to manage whatever finances they have before it falls on the teachers," Mr Hendricks says.

"But I encourage parents to tell me if they don't have food for their child's lunch."

Point England School principal Russell Burt agrees partnership with parents is paramount.

Staff keep a record of how many and which children they feed and visit homes to see if they can offer any advice.

"It's never a punitive visit, it's to provide support. Sometimes you find out the parent made their child lunch but they left it at home or dumped it in the bin on the way to school," Mr Burt says.

But there are 10 to 12 out of about 600 children in the school with a problem.

"I'm not saying that's the extent of it. You don't know how many children hide the fact they don't have lunch because they feel humiliated. You need sharp-eyed teachers to pick that up.

"We are blessed to have systems which enable us to distribute food," he says.

The schools' breakfast club is provided by the Kick Start programme, a consortium of Sanitarium and Fonterra.

A bakery and other donors contribute lunch.

Panama Rd School principal Colleen Margison says the school has been on the KidsCan waiting list for two years and will begin receiving support from next term.

"If kids are hungry they can't learn. We have some wonderful families who feed their children well but there are others who don't have any breakfast or lunch."

A Kick Start breakfast programme is supplied every Wednesday and parents are also welcome. Members of a church group deliver drinks, fruit and sandwiches a couple of times a week for lunch. Staff members support families by offering advice on budgeting and food choices and feel it is important children also learn about healthy eating.

"If the school can help, we will, but we don't want to create an ongoing expectation that we will provide food.

"We would rather our parents felt able to do that.

"It's about finding that balance between provision and education," Ms Margison says.

Glen Taylor School in Glendowie has received shoes and raincoats from KidsCan for the past three years. Principal Lin Avery says a donor company provides several boxes of bagels every week for children without lunch.

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"We keep it quite low key because we don't want to single out or embarrass children."

Go to kidscan.org.nz to learn more about KidsCan or to make a donation.

- East And Bays Courier

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