The Royal Australasian College of Physicians (RACP) welcomes the government's announcement of an initial pilot scheme to provide lunches for year 1-8 children in 30 schools from Term One 2020.
"Hungry kids can't learn", said Dr Jeff Brown, a paediatrician based in Palmerston North and the RACP Aotearoa NZ President. "A nutritious lunch will provide kids with the energy to engage their brains in school work, participate in the classroom and enjoy playing with their friends."
"This programme will also ease the pressure on families – many who are working multiple jobs, and are struggling to keep up with the rising costs of essentials like housing, food and petrol."
"We have seen tremendous efforts of organisations like KidsCan to bring free breakfasts to low decile schools, but no direct commitment from central government to step up and work towards addressing hunger at school - until now."
Government-funded lunch programmes have the ability to provide healthy and nutritionally-balanced meals to thousands of children as the pilot is scaled up from 2021.
"Not only is the universal lunch in schools programme taking action to feed hungry kids, it's a vital step towards addressing the food environment in our schools."
Dr Brown pointed to studies like the University of Otago's Kids’Cam project, which found intermediate-aged children are exposed to multiple instances of junk food advertising and soft drink marketing in schools, and when travelling to and from school.
"The RACP calls for all food environments to be health-promoting, and the school lunch programme could make a real difference if funded and implemented effectively," Dr Brown said.
"Our obesity position statement identifies schools as a key setting for promoting healthy diets and keeping physically active – which together with getting a good nights’ sleep supports healthy childhood development.”
"This initiative has potential to make a healthy lunch the norm for thousands of kids in Aotearoa NZ."
Media contact: Steph Fink ph: (+64) 27 520 0003
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