Food in schools to target neediest - PM

HAMISH RUTHERFORD AND MICHAEL FIELD
Last updated 08:26 27/05/2013
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JONATHAN CAMERON/Fairfax NZ
FOOD IN SCHOOLS: Prime Minister John Key says the programme will be announced this week.
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National will tomorrow announce a "food in schools" programme, with the taxpayer to foot a chunk of the bill, Prime Minister John Key says.

The scheme will target the "most-in-need, initially" and will involve corporate partners, believed to be Fonterra and Sanitarium.

Speaking on Breakfast this morning, Key said that while most New Zealanders would believe parents should provide breakfast for their children, this could leave some children out.

"A lot of people . . . would say it's the parent's responsibility to look after their child, make sure they have a breakfast - how hard can it be that they have a piece of toast or a Weet-Bix or whatever they might be feeding them?" Key said.

"And that's right, it is the parent's responsibility.

"But the issue is if the parent doesn't give the child some breakfast, then will they learn at school? The evidence is, not very well, and I think therefore they become a victim in the whole thing."

While he avoided giving specific details Key said it made sense for a scheme to target the most-needy initially, suggesting the programme would start by targeting lower-decile schools.

The Government already contributes cash to the fruit-in-schools programme, which delivers about 11 million pieces of fruit a year.

Key hinted that programme might be affected by tomorrow's announcement, which would have "a few twists in the tail".

The prime minister agreed it was important that where corporate sponsorship was used, the commitment should be for more than two years.

Yesterday Key told the northern region National Party conference in Auckland it was "a bit of a myth" that the party did not care about the less-well-off.

Key also told about 350 delegates that the party would have a tough time winning next year's election.

"Third terms are notoriously challenging," he said.

But the next election would be different to the usual battle between the Centre-Right and Centre-Left.

"That is not what's going to take place next year," Key said.

"David Shearer has cut his cloth and it is wrapped around [Green Party leader] Russel Norman.

"That now becomes an election between the Centre-Right and the far-Left."

Meanwhile, the prime minister said a strong showing in polls during the weekend, which had National on 47 per cent to 49 per cent was "a pretty good reflection of what [New Zealanders] thought of the Budget".

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- The Dominion Post

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