To date, the New Zealand government’s response to child hunger in primary schools has been characterised by little official recognition that the problem exists and minimal state intervention. Market solutions to child poverty more generally have been sought through efforts to get sole parent beneficiaries into paid employment. However, such an approach suggests that the problem of food insecurity among children is limited to beneficiary households, when 10 percent of children in households with at least one parent in fulltime work are living in poverty.
The majority of government programmes directly addressing children’s food insecurity have focused on inadequate food quality through social marketing campaigns. For example, the Feeding Our Families campaign (originally called Feeding Our Futures) was developed by the Health Sponsorship Council to educate parents and caregivers about the importance of healthy eating practices.
By contrast, government responses to the issue of inadequate food quantity through the provision of food in schools have been almost entirely absent. One exception has been the Ministry of Health’s Fruit in Schools Programme which provides one piece of fruit each day to children in participating low decile schools. However, rather than seeking to alleviate child hunger, it is primarily an educational initiative with the aim of encouraging healthier lifestyles.
The Ministry of Social Development also provides some funding to the KidsCan Chartiable Trust, which provides pre-packaged food to children in 211 low decile schools. However, primary emphasis has been placed on the need for private sector provision, with local businesses being encouraged to “step up to the plate.”