Girl eating apple via Getty
Girl eating apple via Getty

Peter Williams: Free school lunches going to the wrong people

Opinion 13/05/2021

OPINION: If you were given a cheese and mayonnaise sandwich, what would you do with it? 

I don’t know about you but I would ever so quietly find the nearest rubbish bin and drop it in there. I might even look about for a hungry seagull. 

Some people might like a cheese and mayonnaise sandwich but I’m yet to find one. However, who is surprised that the taxpayer-funded school lunches which are being distributed in various places around the country are not being used at school but are being redistributed. 

So now a multi-million dollar school lunches programme, which should be at most a temporary idea until parents and caregivers are taught to make an effort to do the school lunches themselves, is now becoming a community feeding programme. Do you find this extraordinary? Have you been the recipient of a not needed school lunch? And why is there not more control over his scheme?

Right from the start, I have been very very sceptical of the need for the government to provide school lunches. However, I will accept that we have a cohort of parents in this country who are just useless and cannot organise their lives around the few minutes it takes each day to prepare a school lunch for their child. Therefore, we need to provide lunches to those who would otherwise be hungry. 

But let’s find out who really needs the lunches. Let’s find out what the kids would like in their lunch boxes - within reason. Let’s do a bit of market research for both the need and the content. Isn’t that called basic management and marketing? So how come there is such a shambles with this scheme that up to 1500 school lunches are going to waste each day? And what’s more, nobody is counting how much is going to waste. 

All we know now is that social agencies like the Salvation Army are now taking this food and giving it to other people who can’t seem to organise their lives well enough to feed themselves. But it begs the question: who’s counting the money here? Is this just a free for all? Is there no responsibility for the spending of the taxpayer dollar? 

It probably isn’t time to call in the auditor general yet but doesn’t it just continue a pattern of government slackness with taxpayer-funded schemes. 

The Ministry of Social Development has no idea how much is spent on fixing motels wrecked by those given emergency housing, and now nobody seems to be counting or accounting for the school lunch scheme. Is this really good enough? Wouldn’t you expect much better control of the scheme? 

So what do you know about the school lunch scheme? How much wastage is there? And how do you feel about agencies like the Salvation Army getting a whole lot of taxpayer-funded food to hand out?

And then, the Education Minister Chris Hipkins - the same man struggling to oversee an efficient vaccine rollout - has the gall to say the programme is not wasteful. What can you do about attitudes like that? 

It is very obvious that in some parts of this government the idea of spending money in an unaccounted way is perfectly acceptable. Oh well, you voted for it. For me, I’d like to see my taxes spent way more efficiently than that.

Listen to Peter Williams every weekday from 9am on Magic Talk.