Food in Schools for our future

20 May 2013

An animation to raise awareness about the issue of child poverty in NZ, and the need for food in schools programmes, has just been released by an educational research project at The University of Auckland.

This is the second animation, released by ‘Investing In Our Nation’s Kids’, a project that aims to advance the immediate priorities put forward in the Expert Advisory Group's report to the NZ Children's Commissioner on child poverty solutions.

The first initiative by the project was an actions-focused workshop held in early March, and this was followed by release of the first animation on the need for a ‘warrant of fitness’ for housing. Future animations will highlight other priority areas, including the need for more teen parenting units, support for microfinancing initiatives and safer community spaces.

The animations are the brainchild of Dr Siouxsie Wiles, a microbiologist at the University of Auckland, working with Wellington animators Mohawk Media.

“Many Kiwis don’t know it, but poverty is a huge issue in New Zealand. It plays a major role in our horrendous rates of infectious diseases” says Dr Wiles. “We are hoping the animations will raise awareness not only of the number of Kiwi kids living in poverty, but how we can get them out of poverty.”

“New Zealand is in a unique position. Being a small country, if everyone pulled together, government, businesses, whanau and communities, we could pull those 270,000 kids out of poverty and let them fulfil their potential.”

The Food in Schools animation says that more than 1 in 4 Kiwi kids lives in poverty.

“NZ is a first world country with a child poverty problem. Poor nutrition is a significant problem in NZ.” says project coordinator, Dr Airini, Head of School of Critical Studies in Education at The University of Auckland. “We have hungry children in our schools. Going to school hungry affects a child's ability to learn. Healthy food helps children learn. With better education our children might escape the poverty cycle."

Providing food in schools is likely to be a modest cost compared to the societal benefits of a giving all Kiwi children a healthy start to life. Estimates for implementing food in schools programmes range from $5-$10million a year. Programmes like these promote a healthy diet, and improve children's school attendance, behaviour, and ability to learn. Breakfast clubs also provide a safe, early morning place to increase social skills and confidence, creating a better school environment.

“Learning is a physical activity. Children need healthy food every day to help them be learning-ready” says Dr Airini. “We wouldn't expect our All Blacks or Silver Ferns to do their best if they're hungry. Why would we think children could do their best as learners if they're hungry? Good food feeds the mind.”

“Teachers, schools and community groups say we need to provide food in schools to help our hungry children”, she says. “In the end, it's not just hungry kids that benefit, but all New Zealanders."

Animation is available to download from Vimeo .

Website for the ‘ Investing In Our Nation’s Kids ’ project.