Lunches Downgrade Robs Children Of Nutrition, Well-being, Immunity And Fuel To Learn

Published: Wed 8 May 2024 02:40 PM
The Government has sunk to a new low with today’s announcement that they will replace high quality nutritious lunches with largely processed snack foods for Intermediate and High School students, as families continue to struggle with food insecurity.
"This announcement is a devastating lost opportunity to promote healthy eating habits that protect against chronic diseases that result in major health system costs," Health Coaltiion Aotearoa (HCA) co-chair Professor Lisat Te Morenga said.
HCA is pleased the programme will continue for primary schools and there are plans for food provision to a small number of pre-schools, but this should not come at the expense of healthy lunches for thousands of intermediate and high school students.
The Healthy School Lunches Programme, Ka Ora, Ka Ako was designed to reduce hunger, improve nutrition, reduce financial hardship and help reduce barriers to learning for disadvantaged tamariki and rangatahi.
Evaluations from the Ministry of Education and independent research show that in just four years of operation, it succeeded in achieving these aims - and more.
The Ka Ora, Ka Ako meals meet nutritional guidelines and provide students with one third of the nutrients they need each day.
The nutrients in these meals are essential for immunity to illness and disease, and to address significant health problems kids are facing including obesity, dental caries and mental ill-health.
"Pallets of packaged foods are not going to remotely match the high quality, nutritionally balanced and tasty meals of Ka Ora, Ka Ako," HCA co-chair Professor Boyd Swinburn said.
HCA is extremely concerned about the impacts of the new model on the mental well-being of intermediate and high school students,and the loss of jobs.
"How are they going to distribute the food to the students? Will it be, ‘hey all you poor kids come and line up over here to get some food’," Swinburn said.
The whole-of-school approach of Ka Ora, Ka Ako is a key element in its success in promoting healthy eating.
"Because the students are eating these meals together, they get the nutritional benefits of trying new, healthy foods as well as the mental health benefits of manaakitanga through a shared meal," Te Morenga said.
This approach is strongly endorsed by principals because it avoided the stigma of poverty and greatly reduced the burdens on schools and teachers identifying and feeding those who did not have breakfast or lunches.
Minister Seymour wrongly accuses Ka Ora, Ka Ako of being wasteful and having no evidence of impacts. HCA would like to see the evidence he has that his new model with more packaged food will be less wasteful and will be able to match the outcomes that Ka Ora, Ka Ako has achieved.
"Does Mr Seymour have any evidence at all that his cheaper model will help disadvantaged children and families by reducing hunger, improving nutrition, reducing financial hardship and improving educational achievement, attendance, engagement?" HCA co-chair Professor Boyd Swinburn asked.

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