Editorial: Let's not forget poverty concerns

MATTHEW DALLAS - DEPUTY EDITOR
Last updated 12:00 29/05/2013

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OPINION: Free milk and Weet-Bix for all low decile school children - that wasn't so hard, was it?

Going by the protracted lead-up to yesterday's food-in-schools announcement and the coy comments offered by Prime Minister John Key in recent weeks, it was if he was having to commit to preparing each of the meals himself.

Though not a typically National thing to do, the deal is a no-brainer for most Kiwis.

The Government will fork out up to $9.5 million over 5 years to expand of the KickStart breakfast programme, which presently provides breakfast two days a week to more than 500 low-decile schools.

The taxpayers' contribution will be matched by industry partners Fonterra and Sanitarium.

It's simple, really. We can't have children going to school hungry. It affects their learning and concentration.

Though it is reasonable to expect parents to provide their kids with breakfast, clearly many are not.

But why not? This is a question the Government seems less interested in addressing - particularly having delivered a Budget with so little for the hoi polloi.

Mr Key was quick to stress the scheme does not mitigate the responsibility of parents to look after their children - he even opened the announcement with it.

No doubt he was keen to allay any fears among the National base supporters that the Government has gone soft on welfare, but by emphasising this and ignoring why kids aren't being fed the Prime Minister gave the impression the problem was less about poverty and more about poor parenting.

It's a perception opponents of such schemes are quick to conjure; notions of lazy, selfish bludgers who put money towards their cigarette or pokie habits before their children's needs.

Of course there are mums and dads who are bad with money and vices or just plain bad at parenting.

But you can't tell us that this accounts for the huge number of children who are arriving at school with an empty belly and no lunch box in their school bag.

A parent's will to provide for their kids is not determined by their level of wealth or poverty, but their ability to provide is.

The expansion of KickStart and the additional $1.5m over three years to assist KidsCan to provide clothes, health and hygiene products will assist disadvantaged children, so well done on that, Mr Key.

But let's not forget about the overriding poverty concerns.

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- © Fairfax NZ News

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