Empty food baskets = hungry children

Press Release – Child Poverty Action Group

Many schools regularly feed children breakfast and lunch and there are increasing numbers of charitable organisations supplying food to families in Whangarei says Whangarei Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) spokesperson and Northland Plunket Manager …

www.cpag.org.nz

WHANGAREI CHILD POVERTY ACTION GROUP

Media Release 23rd November 2011

Empty food baskets = hungry children

Many schools regularly feed children breakfast and lunch and there are increasing numbers of charitable organisations supplying food to families in Whangarei says Whangarei Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) spokesperson and Northland Plunket Manager Diane Lawson.

Following concerns that the amount of food being supplied to families in Whangarei was rising steadily the Whangarei CPAG conducted research to find out the level of need. The research found nearly all decile 1-4 schools are providing some sort of food to children and that hundreds of families are being provided with food every month.

Low income was the most frequently mentioned cause for not having sufficient food. “Families require adequate income to provide food for their families. With essential costs like housing, energy and transport continuing to increase, the family food budget becomes discretionary as often it is the only place a family can cut their spending” says Ms Lawson.

“Evidence shows that when families are given additional income support it is spent on essentials like food, clothing and educational resources,” says Ms Lawson.

Food supplied in the schools varies from providing breakfast and lunch on most days to a large number of children, to providing sandwiches to a few children in emergency situations. All food provided by schools is funded by private businesses, charity or the school budget. The Fruit in Schools programme, funded by the Ministry of Health, was highly valued by all schools and seen as essential to improving children’s learning and health outcomes.

In addition, the research identified at least 19 supplementary food providers for families in Whangarei. This ranged from food parcels designed to last a family for two to three days, to food cooperatives that supplied fruit and vegetables at cost.

Recent policy changes at Work and Income tightening access and assessment has seen the number of special needs grants for food reduced but the average amount each person receives has increased. Food parcel providers have also had to tighten their criteria due to the increasing demand from families needing food.

There has been a corresponding increase in budgeting advice services because of the requirement to receive budget advice before getting a special needs grant for food.

Nationally real incomes for Maori and Pacific households are falling while food prices, housing, petrol and energy costs are increasing. This is also reflected in Northland. All these factors contribute to the increase in food-insecure families we are seeing in Whangarei.

Whangarei Child Poverty Action Group urges people to use their vote wisely in the upcoming election and to consider the party that will deliver policies that benefit our children most.

ENDS

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