The Paediatric Society of New Zealand (PSNZ) supports the calls from the Health Coalition of Aotearoa to continue and expand Ka Ora Ka Ako, the Ministry of Education’s healthy school lunches programme.
Members of PSNZ regularly witness first-hand the detrimental impacts of poverty and food insecurity on the health of tamariki in Aotearoa.
Auckland paediatrician Owen Sinclair (Te Rarawa) says, “It is a matter of deep concern that in a country blessed with abundant food resources, children still go hungry. We observe whānau from all corners of Aotearoa working tirelessly, yet struggling to afford a continuous supply of nourishment for their loved ones.”
The recommendations from the Health Coalition of Aotearoa are grounded in recent research into Ka Ora Ka Ako. The study reaffirmed the benefits of providing five healthy meals per school week, but the programme has also demonstrated numerous additional advantages. Notably, the children are happier and more focused at school, and the programme directly puts money into the pockets of whānau, who no longer have to pay for lunches. Additionally, the programme stimulates local economies and businesses that provide the food.
Owen added, “The lunches also expose tamariki to a range of healthy food they might not have been otherwise. Money and time are needed to provide healthy home-cooked meals daily, and for a lot of families who are just getting by, that’s not a reality.”
Ka Ora Ka Ako stands out as an exemplary intervention that invests in at-risk whānau and helps our tamariki to thrive. Consequently, it closely aligns with the goals and mission of the Paediatric Society of New Zealand that tamariki in Aotearoa flourish in health and wellness.
“This is such an excellent initiative to improve children’s health. Good nutrition sits alongside things like healthy housing and growing up in a loving, stable environment when it comes to health and development,” says Owen.
As advocates for the health and well-being of our nation’s children, the Paediatric Society of New Zealand urges the government to give serious consideration to the recommendations put forth by the Health Coalition of Aotearoa to expand the programme.
Owen says, “There are still children in our country missing meals due to financial hardship, and the flow on effects of poor nutrition and the stress associated with that can have lifelong impacts.”
By continuing and expanding the Ka Ora Ka Ako initiative, we have an opportunity to create a healthier future for our at-risk tamariki, one where they have access to nourishing meals, improved educational outcomes, and an increased sense of well-being.
For more information, don’t hesitate to get in touch with Ruth Dryfhout, Communications Manager, Paediatric Society of NZ on 021 590 893 or email [email protected]