PM's food plan divides teachers

JONATHAN CARSON AND FAIRFAX
Last updated 00:01 28/05/2013

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The Government's plan to provide food for children in the country's "most in need" schools will be unveiled today, Prime Minister John Key says.

The scheme will target schools in the poorest communities to begin with, and will involve corporate partners, believed to be Fonterra and Sanitarium.

The cost to taxpayers and scope of the programme will likely be revealed during today's announcement.

But Mr Key has indicated that the programme will target the lowest-decile schools initially, with the possibility of it being extended.

There are 90 decile 1-3 schools in Waikato, which could be first in line for food provision.

Waikato principals are said to be "evenly divided" on the issue, with some believing providing food at school is essential, and others saying it's the parents' responsibility.

Deanwell School principal Pat Poland said reacting to poverty in school was not a long-term fix and would create a culture of "learned helplessness".

"I think we're much better to work with parents who are in situations of poverty on things like how to grow food, how and where to buy cheap, nutritious food and how to cook it.

"I strongly believe we've got to be careful not to create a community of learned helplessness where we're teaching parents that they don't have to take responsibility for feeding their own children."

Paeroa Central School, which is decile 1, was already providing sandwiches each day for pupils who needed food, with the help of Kids Can and Tip Top.

"I think that, particularly in low-decile schools, food in school is essential," principal Janet Jones said.

"Before this programme was in place children used to be kept home for the day because they didn't have any lunch."

Waikato Principals' Association chairman John Coulam said a nationwide programme would be more complex than just supplying food.

He was concerned about the hidden costs of food storage and preparation, which would require extra "human power".

He said principals were evenly divided on how to tackle the problem of hungry schoolchildren.

"There are those principals who feel it would eliminate barriers to children's learning if they're fed," he said.

"The other line of think[ing is] that this is a parental responsibility and it's about time parents stepped up and took that responsibility."

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- Waikato

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