Key: Food in schools here to stay

20:37, May 27 2013

A food-in-schools programme is likely to last for years, Prime Minister John Key says, despite acknowledging warnings it could foster dependency.

At midday the Government is due to announce details of its much-hyped programme, which is believed will give pupils at decile 1-4 schools free milk and Weet-Bix five days a week.

Run in conjunction with Fonterra, Sanitarium and children's charity KidsCan, the new programme is also likely to see other measures for the children most in need, possibly including wet-weather clothing and shoes.

Speaking on TV3's Firstline, Key said the programme would not be a short-term measure, noting the fruit in schools programme, also partially state-funded, had been extended after an initial trial.

"I think that will happen, that it will stay there for a long period of time," Key said.

"That's what worries some people of course.

"There's an argument that's put up, that you're building dependency, and the responsibility to feed a child sits with the parent, and you are somehow sending the wrong message here, that the state will pick up the pieces if you don't do the job as a parent.

"And I can understand that argument."

But Key said the problem was that (not introducing the programme) could mean children were left hungry through no fault of their own.

Mana Party leader Hone Harawira, has proposed a far more comprehensive breakfast programme, which would reach across the country with no direct input from the private sector.

He has warned that while corporates may be prepared to bankroll such programmes now, they could walk away when times got tough.

Key said this was possible but unlikely, and in any case the commitment from the corporate partners involved was a long-term one.

"This is something that corporates do because they have a corporate social responsibility," he said.

"So I'd imagine there are situations where they could walk away but they're pretty unlikely to because it's pretty good for their brand - because it's genuinely a nice thing that they're doing." 

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