Cost of living: KidsCan survey paints 'grim' picture of kids going to school 'hungry, cold and miserable'

"The situation is pretty dire."

That's how KidsCan's CEO has described the cost of living crisis as it cripples students and their families across Aotearoa.

A recent survey conducted by KidsCan paints a grim picture of the suffering students across the motu are facing - attending school "hungry, cold and miserable". 

KidsCan says with the last term of the year approaching, many teachers won't be teaching, instead feeding children "who survived the holidays on limited food". 

And the struggle is clear - KidsCan has seen a "sharp" increase in demand for its services, feeding 10,000 more children a day than at the beginning of the year.

"Teachers said some students were surviving on food provided at school, with cupboards at home empty by the end of each week."

One principal told KidsCan that even with both parents working, some households are still forced to decide between bills and basic essentials for their children.

Another said children are becoming worried about family money and their parents' well-being as the pressure becomes more visible.

"Dad was crying last night because he said it's his job to feed us kids, but he doesn't get enough money, and everything is so expensive," one child told a principal. 

KidsCan says some families can't afford both rent and food, resulting in overcrowded homes.

"One school reported a child living in a three-bedroom home with nineteen others," one teacher told KidsCan "sadly, this is not unusual".

And the cost of fuel is affecting children turning up to school. One school told KidsCan they're picking up 60 children every day to get them into the classroom.

"High schools reported reduced attendance as senior students worked part-time to support their families or left altogether."

And the teachers KidsCan surveyed are not only seeing the impact on the student's education but their well-being too.

"Several schools said they'd seen a drop in the number of students able to participate in sport. School camp letters didn't make it home if students thought their parents couldn't afford it."

And while KidsCan is seeing an increase in need, donations to the charity are dropping. KidsCan says regular givers are having to tighten their budget too.

"With our costs rising, and a drop in people able to donate every month, we need more help from individuals and businesses too," said CEO Julie Chapman. 

KidsCan says it is currently supporting 877 schools across the motu, feeding more than 49,000 students a day.

But 39 schools are waiting for help, and have been since April.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern told AM rates of poverty in Aotearoa have begun to turn, according to the nine measures the Government uses to gauge poverty in Aotearoa. 

"They were getting worse, they are now starting to turn. There are fewer people, 145,000 fewer children in hardship through the period of COVID than there were for instance through GFC."

Ardern said while children are being lifted out of poverty, there are still some that remain. 

"We're not going to fix it quickly, but we can and we will keep making progress. The job is not done and the reflection that you're sharing today of teachers is another example of why we have to keep going."