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The Prime Minister’s announcement that around 120 primary schools will get access to universal free lunches is a well-meaning pilot but is badly designed and will leave thousands of children in early learning centres and high schools unable to get support for years to come, National’s Education spokesperson Nikki Kaye says.

“National invested in the successful Kickstart programme which partners with Sanitarium and Fonterra to provide breakfast clubs to all schools who want it across all deciles one to ten. It reaches more than 1000 schools and kura and around 30,000 children. We also provided funding for the fruit in schools programme and KidsCan.

“Our approach was based on schools determining their need, rather than a one size fits all blanket approach. Some schools may choose to feed all of their children but many schools acknowledge not all children need food. The success and low cost of the programme we delivered is due to its work with partners who leverage existing infrastructure, suppliers and food distribution networks.

“The Government’s approach has failed to consider that most schools do not have the infrastructure such as kitchens for large scale food preparation and storage. There is minimal funding in this scheme for equipment. The scheme is designed with maximum work for the school unlike the majority of other successful schemes operating now.

“Taxpayer funding is being used for this policy which is ill thought through and lacks detail. National also understands that a significant sum of money will be spent on officials and evaluation rather than actual lunches.

“The intention of this universal policy is to reduce social stigma for children but it ignores the fact that many schools have developed approaches to ensure children are provided a free lunch in a sensitive and confidential way.

“If this is the beginning of a universal free lunch programme for all schools, this would cost hundreds of millions and take away the autonomy of parents to provide lunch for their children.

“This nanny state policy is putting a bandaid over an issue with no plan to address the fact that seven of nine child poverty indicators have worsened under this Government. National believes it is the responsibility of parents to feed their children, but through targeted support with trusted organisations we can help children in need.

“National would support a decision to invest more to ensure children in hardship get access to nutritious food. However, the Government could use the money more effectively to reach the tens of thousands of children in high schools and early childhood centres who will miss out under this scheme by working with organisations already doing this work.”

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