Thursday, 18 April 2013

Feeding the Kids a way forward.

On April the 13th 2013 0ver two hundred gathered to hear first hand exactly what is happening in the huge task of feeding our kids. It was held in Tokoroa at the astoundingly striking and beautiful Papa O Te Aroha Marae.

Tokoroa is a town deeply effected by the collapse of the paper and timber industry which has led to massive lay off’s. Families in the area are struggling to simply maintain a minimum standard of living and naturally children suffer. A massive number of families have to decide where they spend their ever reducing incomes. Power, fuel, healthcare and food head the list of options and are a just few of the imperatives where serious choices must be made on a daily basis.
These choices can and do have a dramatic effect on bring up a family. After meeting many families and hearing their stories I now fully realise just how difficult simply surviving has become for working people and especially for those on benefits or in low paid work. I quickly recognised the truism that there are two New Zealand’s these days, those that have and those that don’t.

Alan Johnson from the Salvation Army and the Child Poverty Action Group [CPAG] stunned his audience with a realistic overview of the rapid plunge downward of thousands of children around the country. While he also praised various groups that are working hard to relieve the plight he was strongly critical of the various pressures applied by the government to blame the victims for their plight. He painted a very visual picture of what children have been forced into very dangerous situations; a clear example was where school aged children were forced to stay home from school because the parents could not afford bus fares and or petrol for their car. Where people did not uplift their prescriptions, because of the five dollar charge per item recently introduced. People and families that live on the outskirts of our towns have huge transport costs, often there are no public transport systems of any kind or even a school bus available. Alan told the crowd present what the state of affairs for many actually was, there was no grap just fact, there was no blame just horror at was happening in this day and age…

Shane Ngatai a decile three primary school principle showed via overhead projections just what could be done by a school that was prepared to do things differently…they grow their own vegetables, run a kitchen where they cook their produce, they serve breakfasts and lunches, their school grounds are planted with fruit trees and they even keep chickens. All the food they produce is prepared and cooked and served by the pupils themselves aided by teachers and parent volunteers. They also sell surplus produce at a profit.

Much of their teaching is done while growing, preparing, presenting and serving, Each class has its collective tasks and each task interlocks into a major development project such as serving breakfast and lunch each school day. Shane told us what was happening now. ‘They count the seeds planted, and compare those figures with the numbers harvested, this assists with their mathematics’ lessons. They check growth patterns in the various garden plots and that teaches them botany skills, they chart progress and write up their findings and that teaches English skills. They are linking educational skills into life skills which in turn produce better and more active minds. They get to eat really healthy food, sure they get their hands [and knees] dirty and they learn in a healthy and realistic environment.

Each of these speakers presented at the Mana sponsored symposium in Tokoroa, but the Mana Movement is not simply made up of talkers, they actually do things, in many respects they are very much like the Salvation Army and the Child Poverty Action Group wrapped up as one. The Mana movement grows stronger both in numbers and in fortitude each week.   


BIG BREAKFAST: Dorothy Sefo, left, Shanice Tunufai Dewit and Sisilina Roi [pictured] enjoy their Weet-Bix. The trio, are all students at Te Whanau Awhina bilingual unit at Clendon Park School.

Two thousand schoolchildren tucked into Auckland's biggest breakfast this morning [Last Wednesday].

The Mana Party was hosting students from South Auckland schools at Otara Leisure Centre to promote its ‘Feed the Kids’ Bill.

It aims to have breakfast and lunch programmes provided in all decile one and two schools.

Party leader Hone Harawira says the bill recognises the importance of having a full stomach to the wellbeing of all children and he's urging all parties to support it when it is introduced to Parliament in June.

''The principals' association supports it, the teachers' association supports it, doctors and nurses support it. Whanau support it and the kids support it too so who else can you ask?

''Their health and well-being improves, their educational prospects improve and their future improves.''

Shortland Street stars Pua Magasiva, Teuila Blakely and Shavaughn Ruakere whipped the young crowd in to a ‘Weetbix’ frenzy and Mana Party member John Minto called the event ''a community building activity for schools''.

''Schools have got in behind us in a huge way right across the country and not just decile one and two. Its right across the board and people are now saying 'we need to feed all of our kids’ breakfast'.''

Clendon Park School teacher Te Ariki Tuiono says he ''sees tamariki everyday without the kai they need''.
''It's very hard for some of our parents who just get by. There's a need for something like this where the kids can get a feed without any worries.''
It isn't unusual for teachers to dig into their own pockets to feed their students, he says.
''When I see kids who don't have any kai or we're having shared lunches, I put it all on the table, if we can feed one we can feed all.''

If you would like to help Feed the Kids you can. Send a message to your local MP list or electorate asking, no demanding, them to support the ‘Feed the Children’ bill. It’s easy:   [The first and surname is the name of the MP and don’t forget the full stop between them, no capitals or spaces between words].

The second thing you might like to consider is joining NZ’s most progressive political movement if you do just give me a note, phone call, I’ll let you know when our next meeting here in Palmerston North is. If you don’t live here go to: and have a read about the policies, the goals, of this inclusive and active movement.

1 comment:

Susan St John said...

Well done in recording this eventso graphically. In Tokoroa many families who have lost hours of work no longer qualify for the full Working for Families package. The old idea that there was a safety net of per week child assistance paid to the caregiver that increased as income decreased, has for low income working families turned into a punishment by stripping out at least $60 a family. Please support the CPAG case before the Court of Appeal to remedy this injustice especially afflicting Tokoroa families.
Susan St John CPAG