Five years on: Lunchbox differences in decile 1 and decile 10 schools

Poverty still remains a major issue in New Zealand which affects some of our most vulnerable citizens: the children.

In 2012, current affairs show Campbell Live visited two schools to highlight the issue, looking at different lunches in different deciles.

The difference was staggering - but five years on, has there been any improvement?

Newshub visited two classes in Auckland to see how things are shaping up. They didn't know we were coming and didn't have a chance to change their usual breakfast or lunch plans.

Decile 10

A well-balanced lunch seen in a decile 10 school.
A well-balanced lunch seen in a decile 10 school. Photo credit: Newshub.

At a decile 10 school, there were 26 kids in the classroom. All brought a packed lunch, and seven also ordered lunch.

Half brought fruit with them and two of them had at least three pieces of fruit.

Even if someone didn't bring a packed lunch, principal Stephen said they offer free fruit in the office. It's available for all children, so there's no stigma - anyone can go up and grab something.

Five years on: Lunchbox differences in decile 1 and decile 10 schools
Photo credit: Newshub.

Decile 1

Four students sit at this table. One didn't have any breakfast or lunch.
Four students sit at this table. One didn't have any breakfast or lunch. Photo credit: Newshub.

Just 30 minutes' drive away, it's a completely different story.

At a decile 1 school, just eight of the 18 children had breakfast that morning. For some, it was only a single biscuit, or a slice of bread.

For the one child who brought fruit, a single apple was their entire lunch. They hadn't had breakfast either.

When it came to lunches, one child bought something from the bakery, while another had a packet of gingernut biscuits. Others had a mix of packaged foods - chips and popcorn. Just two had sandwiches.

Five years on: Lunchbox differences in decile 1 and decile 10 schools
Photo credit: Newshub.

While it may seem like an improvement, principal Shirley says for them, things are worse than five years ago.

"When I looked at those lunches this morning, it really made my heart feel so sad," she told Newshub.

"For those that had something, at least it was something. However, it isn't quality food."

When they're eating well, the kids are alert. They learn better and they can sit still and focus, Shirley says.

For 22 percent of the students at her school, that isn't the case.

"With empty tummies we find our children tend to be in a wrong behaviour plan," she said.

"When children are not hungry - children really get to settle quickly, learn better and outcomes are far better."

This student didn't have breakfast - but picked up something for lunch at the bakery.
This student didn't have breakfast - but picked up something for lunch at the bakery. Photo credit: Newshub.

These students aren't being left completely on their own. Help is out there through various assistance programmes.

Fonterra's Kickstart Breakfast provides schools with weet-bix and milk, Eat My Lunch delivers one school meal for every pack they deliver to homes and businesses, and KidsCan donates fruit, scroggin and snackbars.

KidsCan has seen an explosion in demand for its services since the Campbell Live report in 2012.

"We were feeding around 15,000 kids then, we're feeding around 29,000 now," chief executive Julie Chapman told Newshub.

That's nearly 30,000 Kiwi kids without lunch, every week. There are thousands more on the waiting list.

Part of the boom is increased awareness, Ms Chapman says. Families are more willing to ask for help.

"There's also been increased Government funding to be able to actually bring those schools off our waiting list, and increased support from businesses and the community," she said.

Only one student brought fruit. It was all they had for lunch.
Only one student brought fruit. It was all they had for lunch. Photo credit: Newshub.

Back at the decile 1 school we visited, principal Shirley said a number of the children's families are struggling to make rent and are living in caravans and garages.

"A lot of our parents are trying really hard and they're working two and three jobs just to make ends meet… and still, they haven't got enough money to live on," she said.

"Out of dire need, they are speaking out."

Ms Chapman says there's a lot being done at the moment to help the issue, including by the Government and businesses, but she welcomes more.

"We would like to do ourselves out of a job," she said.

There is a student at this desk. They didn't have breakfast or lunch.
There is a student at this desk. They didn't have breakfast or lunch. Photo credit: Newshub.

"The social investment approach that's been taken is really important, it's about lifting incomes of families and working with those families who are most at risk.

"One day in the future KidsCan won't be needed - that's ultimately our goal."

It's been five years since the child poverty issue was brought to the forefront.

But for those at this decile 1 school and those helping the struggling, there's been little relief since.

Newshub.

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