Should NZ schools offer a free lunch to all students?
They’ve been doing it for over a century in the UK. As early as 1906, many schools served a midday “dinner”, or lunch as we would know it. The meals were stodgy and designed to fill the bellies of the students. Meals included mutton, suet pudding, bean soup and bread, and fish and potato pie. The aim was to fight off hunger and improve the health of the students. Times may have changed, and Jamie Oliver caused a bit of a revolution a decade ago when it came to the nutrition of those school dinners, but the aim is still the same – ensure that kids have at least one meal a day to aid in their wellbeing and ultimately, increase their ability to learn.
Finland went one step further when in 1943 they became the first country to pass a law entitling all school children to free meals.
Free school lunches in New Zealand
As reported on Seven Sharp in 2018, a group of Kiwi mums were working towards providing a fresh, healthy and nutritious lunch for all New Zealand students every day at school.
“We believe passionately that all children are our children. That all children in New Zealand, wherever they are, whatever their circumstances, have the right to access their education on an equal footing and to nutritious food to nourish their mind, lives and spirit. We believe a centrally funded, secured, healthy school lunch programme for all is a powerful mechanism for New Zealand to fulfill these obligations to our children, to lift them up and break the poverty cycle.” Eat Right, Be Right
The cost of poverty
There are multiple charitable schemes across the country including KidsCan and Eat My Lunch, that have been working to provide food and other essentials for Kiwi kids and there have been a few attempts to pass legislation to help those in need but is it time for a nationwide, tax-payer funded approach?
Back in 2014, during a reading of a proposed Bill to introduce free of charge breakfast and lunch programmes into all decile 1 and 2 schools, Jacinda Ardern said: “Poverty costs us money, and a lot of money. If we get this right, if we do something positive for children, we can actually save ourselves money as a country. Not only that, we start to see that we can enhance the opportunity for kids. The Programme for International Student Assessment results have strongly suggested to us that, yes, we have a good educational system in New Zealand but that, actually, social deprivation is starting to impact on our educational outcomes. Its strong recommendation to us was that if we wanted to start improving our outcomes, we have got to look at the child’s wider context. It is not just about what happens to them when they walk in the school gate; it is about what happens in their lives at home, it is about what kind of support they have, it is about whether or not there is enough money to put food on the table, and it is about whether or not they are hungry at school.”
Do you think a free school lunches scheme could work in New Zealand? Join our discussion in the comments below.
Read more on Kidspot: