KidsCan Welcomes New Food Programme For Under Fives Amidst Ka Ora, Ka Ako Changes

Published: Wed 8 May 2024 11:55 AM
KidsCan is welcoming the government’s announcement of a new early childhood food programme to support 10,000 preschoolers living in poverty. Since 2019, the charity has been providing food and clothing for children in early childhood (ECE) centres in areas of high deprivation, after teachers cried out for support. It now supports 205 centres nationwide.
“The early years are fundamental – hunger from poverty doesn’t begin at five,” KidsCan CEO and founder Julie Chapman says. “Research shows this is a crucial period of brain development which sets a child up for life. The right food plays a big part, and we’re really happy that this funding will mean more children in poverty get the fuel they desperately need.”
Early childhood teachers are seeing increasing hardship, and over 5,000 children in 150 centres are now waiting for KidsCan support. The charity will be putting its hand up to be a provider of the new government programme, in the hope it can reach every child on its waitlist.
Research from Waikato University showed KidsCan’s programme was making a ‘valuable difference’ to preschoolers’ wellbeing. Every child receives morning tea of fresh fruit and yoghurt, and either a hot lunch or sandwiches five days a week. Centres select from a range of recipes supported by the Heart Foundation including chicken stir fry, tuna pasta salad and lasagne with vegetables. Ingredients are delivered to them each week. Teachers reported children had more energy, were more engaged, and sickness reduced. Many centres also share the recipes with families to make at home.
KidsCan was also approached by the government to share its knowledge from 18 years of feeding children at school. The charity supports 889 schools nationwide, providing breakfast food and snacks, which complement the Ka Ora, Ka Ako programme. It also delivers hot meals to schools who don’t qualify for government lunches, but still have hungry students. Schools order what they need each term from products including yoghurt makers and sachets, tinned fruit, spreads, fresh bread, baked beans, muesli bars, and nuts. Heat and eat meals include curries, soups, beef bolognese, pasta and rice made by companies including Pitango and Campbells.
“KidsCan believes that feeding students in school is more important than ever. With 36,000 more children in poverty than last year, unfortunately more children are getting their main nutrition at school. We’re pleased that Ka Ora Ka Ako will continue for every student currently receiving it - and we would love to see a continued focus on providing fresh, nutritious lunches that children want to eat,” Chapman says.
“We provide predominantly shelf-stable food support to reach as many children as possible across New Zealand, shipping over 1.5 million items from our warehouse every term. It’s cost effective, it can be easily stored by schools, and it reduces waste. Food insecurity has skyrocketed over the past three years, and we aim to alleviate hunger for as many kids as we can. Particular favourites are the fruit pots, fresh bread with spreads, butter chicken with rice and beef bolognese with pasta. Our fresh food provision is constrained by funding, but we think it is important that Ka Ora, Ka Ako includes fresh food.”
KidsCan won't be tendering to provide school lunches under the reimagined government programme - it does not have the capacity to support such a large scheme. The charity will continue its current provision, including breakfast, warm jackets and shoes and socks so students get to class ready to learn. Right now, 87 schools are waiting for support, many of them previously decile 5 and 6 who don’t receive Ka Ora, Ka Ako. KidsCan is working to reach these children as quickly as possible.

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