Key tight-lipped on food in schools

Last updated 14:55 17/05/2013

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As Prime Minister John Key and Finance Minister Bill English tucked into post-Budget meals, they kept their mouths closed over the Food in Schools programme.

Providing breakfast and lunch to needy kids was discussed as part of the Government's plan to tackle child poverty, but the details weren't included in yesterday's Budget.

The programme was expected to involve extensive partnership with companies and community groups already involved in providing food to hungry students.

Following a post-Budget breakfast of bacon and a chocolate muffin, English today said an announcement would be made in the next couple of weeks.

Key this afternoon refused to reveal many details, but the programme looked set to include a partnership with corporate and community partners such as KidsCan, Fonterra and Sanitarium - who are all already involved in schools.

"I'm confident we're going to address the issues of youngsters going without breakfast, I think that's concerning if that is the case," he said following a post-Budget lunch speech where dinners feasted on roast beef and kumara.

While he wouldn't discuss the details ahead of the announcement, Key did say the Government would work with other organisations to provide food in schools where it was needed.

"There are other partners involved with us and that will be a good thing."

KidsCan provides breakfast to 4500 children, while Fonterra and Sanitarium have teamed up to provide Weet-Bix and milk in more than 400 schools.

Key said feeding children was an important issue but was also "somewhat the ambulance at the bottom of the cliff".

Labour leader David Shearer said providing breakfast to children was ultimately a parent's responsibility and any programme must be targeted.

"I would support anything that would enable kids to go with full stomachs,’’ as long as it was not rolled out to all schools, he said.

Community Campaign for Food in Schools spokeswoman Deborah Morris-Travers said yesterday's Budget had failed to deliver for hungry kids.

"There is little that will make a practical difference for the 80,000 children who arrive at school hungry because of poverty and disadvantage."

Mana party leader Hone Harawira, who has drafted food in schools legislation, said he was "gobsmacked" it had been left out of the Budget.

He called on the Government to support his bill. The Government has said it will vote down.

"So another day passes with more of our future leaders go to school hungry and won't learn as well as a result of this Government's inaction."

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Children's Commissioner Russell Wills said the Budget made a good start on tackling child poverty but he was looking forward to seeing details of the food in schools programme.

- Stuff

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