Children going hungry: One in five Kiwi kids living in households where food runs out

One in five Kiwis kids are living in households where food runs out sometimes or often, new Government data shows.

The most shocking part of the data is that the rates for Māori were 30 percent and for Pacific kids a whopping 46 percent, but thankfully these figures have been trending down.

The Government released the first Annual Report for the Child and Youth Wellbeing Strategy on Thursday, containing some confronting statistics.

It's no secret housing is unaffordable in New Zealand. But the report shows just how bad it is: 36 percent of households with kids are spending more than 30 percent of their disposable income on housing, an increase from 35 percent in 2018-2019.

Real Estate Institute data shows median house prices in New Zealand have increased by nearly 20 percent over the past year, from $680,000 in April 2020 to $810,000 in April 2021. If trends continue, the average house price will hit $1 million before year's end.

With lack of supply, rent prices have continued to rise. The median rent price increased 6 percent in the year to March, data from Trade Me shows, and the figure - $540 a week - is the highest on record. 

The latest figures for the month of February show there are 23,259 people waiting for public housing, four times as many as when Labour took power. The Government has committed to 6400 additional public housing places by 2022.

Children living in households with major problems such as dampness or mould dropped from 8 percent in 2018-2019 to 7 percent.

There are also more than 10 percent of children and young people experiencing psychological or mental distress, highlighting the escalating mental health crisis.

There were some less grim aspects of the report. The data shows nine out of 10 15-24-year-olds reported feeling in good health, while 83 percent of young people rated their family wellbeing as high.

Children going hungry: One in five Kiwi kids living in households where food runs out
Photo credit: Supplied

Child Poverty Reduction Minister Jacinda Ardern acknowledged there is still a group of children for whom life at home is "quite different" to those living well.

"Too many children live in low-income households, or experience racism, bullying or violence. And overall, Māori, Pacific and disabled children and young people are more likely to experience worse outcomes," she said on Thursday. 

"Many of the issues facing children, young people and their families are complex, stubborn and intergenerational, so we know change will take time, and will require sustained action across government and across our communities.

"While it is too soon to assess the longer-term impacts of COVID-19, we know it has given rise to major challenges in the lives of our most vulnerable.

"As part of our COVID response we have already taken steps to mitigate these impacts by increasing main benefits, rolling out the wage subsidy and expanding employment services which has resulted in a drop in the unemployment rate to 4.7 percent and record levels of people moving from main benefit to work.

"We will continue to take steps to ensure our recovery from COVID addresses inequality and doesn't leave our most vulnerable children behind.

"While I'm proud of the Government's achievements to date reducing child poverty, the work is far from done. The results will take time, but we will continue to build on progress, putting children and young people first, so that New Zealand really can be the best place in the world for them to be."

Free lunches for kids?

Pressure has been mounting on the Government to make its free Lunch in Schools programme available for everyone. KidsCan research shows 99 percent of decile 1-6 primary and secondary schools students go hungry on a regular basis. 

KidsCan currently feeds 40,000 kids every day, and the Government's lunch programme caters to about 1000 schools - around 25 percent of students. But there are growing calls to extend that to all students, at all schools.

But Ardern recently said providing school lunches for every child is "quite a costly programme to roll out".