Children relying on schools to feed them - KidsCan

  • 30/01/2024

While the start of the school year comes with many expenses for families, for lots of Kiwi kids it means getting a meal every day. 

Children's charity KidsCan said many Kiwi kids are relying on schools to feed them, and it's only getting worse. 

The charity has launched an appeal to aide vulnerable families after reports of students taking up jobs to help make ends meet. 

Te Kura Kaupapa Māori Whare Tapere o Takitimu tumuaki (principal) Fleur Wainohu told AM the struggle whānau are feeling right now is "undeniable". 

"When kura comes back round, the start of year, and you are slammed with the uniforms, the stationary, the transport - it's just huge and a significant burden on our whānau," Wainohu said. 

She said whānau are struggling to provide the basics. 

"I have heard of whānau having to go without [food]. I have heard of… a lot of tamariki who could be enjoying summer are out working and there's no choice in that," she said. "They have to work to be able to help their whānau out with the money that's needed to keep that kai on the table." 

According to a KidsCan survey of 347 schools, 47 schools reported students who had taken on part-time jobs to help their families survive - or left school altogether to work. 

Wainohu said she knew of primary age students working with their parents on orchards, while some secondary students had entered the workforce to support their whānau. 

With school starting back again, Wainohu said at least they know students will be provided a breakfast, morning tea and lunch.  

"We have to provide that because we actually don't know what they're going home to in the evenings, so we need to know they are having kai during the day," she said. 

KidsCan found 65 percent of schools who responded to their survey said they believed poverty was worsening in their communities. 

In response, KidsCan launched an urgent appeal to support vulnerable children as they return to school.  

The charity, with the help if donations, provides food, shoes, jackets and health items to tens of thousands of students in nearly 900 schools nationwide, so they can arrive ready to learn.  

KidsCan said there are thousands more students in 77 schools waiting for support on the charity's biggest waitlist since 2018. 

"This is always the hardest time of the year for vulnerable families as they face crippling back to school costs - but 2024 may be the toughest yet," KidsCan's CEO Julie Chapman said.  

"We're facing record demand with thousands of students waiting for help. Schools aren't just asking us for food and clothing - some need shampoo, soap and toothpaste. The essentials are becoming luxuries.   

"Our charity is under huge pressure. Donations are dropping as people are forced to tighten their belts. It's heartbreaking not to be able to support the schools on our waitlist. Every child deserves to be well fed and clothed so they can just focus on learning - because education is their best chance at getting out of poverty. We urgently need donations from those who can afford to make a difference." 

Watch the full video above.