Jacinda Ardern: Lunches in schools for the kids who need them most

Opinion 30/08/2019

By Jacinda Ardern, Prime Minister, Labour Party Leader.

The way we treat our children says a lot about who we are as a country. As a government, child poverty is one of the toughest long-term challenges we have to tackle.

Fixing all the things that cause child poverty will take time, but one thing we can do straight away is make sure kids get at least one decent meal a day.

This week, I went to Kaitao Intermediate in Rotorua to announce our plan to provide lunches in schools for the kids who need them most. It’s another step towards our goal of halving child poverty and making New Zealand the best place in the world to be a child.

You simply can’t learn if you have an empty stomach.

So we came up with a plan. In fact, we came up with a plan alongside children themselves. As part of our work to pull together our Child and Youth Wellbeing Strategy, of which school lunches is just one part, some 6,000 children shared their ideas on ‘what makes a good life’ and some hundreds send post cards to me directly.

I read every single one. They were so important to me that they now hang in my house in Wellington and I see them every day as I go down the stairs to go to the beehive. It’s an important reminder to me of why I’m in politics.

Being the Prime Minister means I deal with everything that happens in New Zealand on a daily basis – but, I can tell you hand on heart, that the thing that made me want to be in politics in the first place was children.

We know around one in five children in New Zealand live in households that struggle to put enough good quality food on the table. New Zealand can be better than that – and we can be better than that.

That’s why we’ve decided that for those kids who need it most, we will put lunches in schools.

Our plan will initially be rolled out to students in primary and intermediate schools across the Hawke’s Bay, Bay of Plenty, Tairawhiti and Southland/Otago in Term Two.  From here, it will extend to reach around 21,000 students in about 120 schools, from the beginning of 2021.

While we progress this plan, we will be asking for feedback from our children, their schools and their parents. We want to make sure that what we do works. 1.6 million New Zealanders are under the age of 25. That’s 33% of our population! We’re here to make sure every one of them has the chance to succeed.

Jacinda Ardern is Prime Minister and Leader of the Labour Party.