Wednesday, July 27, 2011 - Brian Rudman: Hunger in land of milk and honey

It's a disgrace that children are hungry in Aotearoa! Everybody is entitled to a living income!
Brian Rudman: Hunger in land of milk and honey
For years, local celebrities have been popping up on our screens in their safari gear, imploring us to sponsor a poverty-stricken child. A child in some poor, badly governed, Third World country, of course. The Herald's "Our Hungry Kids" series shows the problem is much closer to home.

Perhaps the most chilling line is buried away in the daily "What you can do" box, recommending we "sponsor a hungry child through KidsCan for 50c a day". This, in the land of Fonterra. In a land where a state-school principal in one part of Auckland can demand every child come to school with a designer-brand, $1000 tablet computer. A land where the Government can throw $1.77 billion to greedy and unwise investors who lost their money to the cult of Alan Hubbard.

Child Poverty Action Group's latest report highlights the impact that 20 years of widening income disparity between rich and poor is having on the victims no one can blame, the children.

It also proposes that for a relatively small price - $8 million to $18.9 million - all primary and intermediate school kids in decile 1 to 3 schools could be provided with a nutritious breakfast, something which will be beneficial both healthwise and educationally.

"If a few children go hungry in the morning then that suggests a temporary or perhaps ongoing problem within individual families. If hundreds go hungry morning after morning then the problem is structural and can be addressed.

"Yet despite the ubiquity of food insecurity among students at Auckland's decile 1 and 2 schools, children's hunger is often portrayed as one of individual moral failure and stigmatised accordingly." As a result, some parents keep hungry children from school to avoid being stigmatised.

Yet blaming caregivers "fails to address the causes of hunger and denies children the assistance they need".

The causes of increased poverty, and the growth of foodbanks and school food programmes, go back to National's big benefit cuts of 1991.

About 221,000 children, those whose parents are on income-tested social security, are affected.


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