Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Winning the argument on food in schools

The government has finally bowed to the inevitable and introduced a school breakfast programme, directly funding Fonterra and Sanitarium's KickStart Breakfast programme and increasing their contribution to KidsCan for other assistance. Its a welcome move, which will do some good (though its worth pointing out that much of the problem it is trying to counteract is a direct consequence of the NeoLiberal policies pursued by National). So how does it stack up against Hone's Feed the kids bill?

Its mixed. While National's programme is wider in scope than that of the bill (applying to decile 1 to 4 rather than only decile 1 and 2), it only provides breakfast, not breakfast and lunch. Participation is voluntary, both on a school and individual level. On a school level, it means that uptake could be spotty. On an individual one, it still leaves us with the problem of stigmatisation that a universal, state-funded programme was supposed to solve. There's no nutritional guidelines, monitoring or evaluation. But most importantly, it is all grace and favour. The government has made this money available now, but they could just as easily cut it in future (and of course the money they provide doesn't have to be adequate for anything other than PR). Hone's bill imposed a statutory requirement, including a requirement to fund it, effectively creating an enforceable right. It is therefore much preferable to National's programme (which will now of course be used as an excuse to vote it down).

Still, its been a massive shift: the left has effectively won the argument on this, and forced the government to make some sort of response. While not everything we would have hoped for, it will do some good, and make it that much easier to establish a statutory programme later.