General policy statement
This Bill amends the Education Act 1989 to provide for the introduction of fully State funded breakfast and lunch programmes into all decile 1 and 2 schools and other designated schools in New Zealand. The meals will be available to all enrolled students in these schools free of charge, and will be required to meet Ministry of Health nutritional guidelines.
Growing levels of poverty in New Zealand have resulted in too many parents being unable to afford to provide their children with breakfast before school and/or lunch at school, or being unable to afford to provide their children with sufficiently nutritious meals before and during school. Research conducted in New Zealand and overseas has demonstrated the positive benefits to the school attendance, learning achievement, and health of children and young people when nutritious meals are provided by schools. The introduction of State led and funded food in schools programmes in low decile schools has been recommended by the Child Poverty Action Group in their 2011 report Hunger for learning: Nutritional barriers to children’s education, and by the Children’s Commissioner’s expert advisory group on child poverty in their 2012 discussion paper Solutions to child poverty in New Zealand as a key measure to address child poverty.
Charitable organisations, businesses, and parent and school volunteers currently running or supporting food in schools programmes will be encouraged to continue to support schools in providing nutritious meals for students, and contribute to the success of the policy. The State led and funded breakfast and lunch programmes in schools policy will bring certainty to decile 1 and 2 schools, other designated schools, and the families and students that attend them. Reliance on charity is often risky and uncertain, especially in times of economic downturn.
In conjunction with the Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Education will develop a plan to monitor schools at least once every 12 months to ensure they are providing meals each day they are open for instruction and that the meals follow nutritional guidelines. An evaluation of the breakfast and lunch programmes will be conducted within the first 3 years to further develop and improve their effectiveness.