Government policy on providing food in schools needs input from families, teachers and students themselves, says Catholic social justice agency Caritas.
Caritas’ position is based on a small-scale research report it is currently conducting about the many different ways that Catholic schools are responding to hungry children at school. The qualitative survey of schools involved both online questions and longer conversations with a small group of schools.
“Our conversations with teachers and principals at Catholic schools have opened our eyes to the variety of ways that schools are responding with innovation and compassion to the different situations they are encountering,” says Caritas Director Julianne Hickey.
Mrs Hickey says Caritas would prefer the issue of food provision in schools be discussed and debated through the Select Committee process around Metiria Turei’s Education (Breakfast and Lunch Programmes in Schools) Amendment Bill, which is due to be voted on in Parliament tonight.
“In many cases, funding to support specific local initiatives by schools in partnership with their local communities may be a better option. However, we agree with the government that this is not a perfect Bill, as we do not believe a ‘one-size-fits-all’ national solution is the sole or best way of responding to the presence of hungry children at schools.”
At a joint lecture and seminar with The Catholic Institute on Monday night, Caritas shared findings that showed that while food provision was a rare exception in many Catholic schools, for around one-fifth of Catholic schools who participated in the survey, it was a significant and ongoing issue.
The report is being finalised and is expected to be released within the next month.
“Whether or not the private members’ Bill is sent to Select Committee, the question of hunger in schools remains a significant public policy concern which needs to be addressed, and one which requires the opportunity for public consultation,” says Mrs Hickey.