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Source: Hapai Te Hauora

Hāpai Te Hauora, Aotearoa’s leading Māori Public Health organisation is extremely concerned that the coalition Government has confirmed the government-funded school lunch programme, Ka Ora Ka Ako is under review. Another devastating blow, on hauora and whānau Māori, after the urgent disestablishment of Te Aka Whaiora and the repeal of Smokefree laws only a week ago. The programme currently provides nutritious school lunches to more than 220,000 learners, in more than 900 schools who face the most socio-economic barriers in Aotearoa. Hāpai Te Hauora urgently calls for the continuation of the programme.
Research highlights that by reducing food insecurity and improving access to healthy and nutritious food not only improves learners’ wellbeing, but it also improves their development and learning capacity, supports concentration and behaviour, can reduce financial hardship on whānau, and reduce barriers to participation in learning and attendance. Investing in feeding our tamariki is an investment into their health, their education, the future economy of Aotearoa and the collective prosperity of the nation.
Jacqui Harema, CEO of Hāpai Te Hauora, stresses the importance of action, stating, “In the current economic climate, where families across Aotearoa are struggling to afford basic necessities, the provision of free, nutritious school lunches is more important than ever. This initiative is about more than just feeding hungry children; it’s about levelling the playing field and ensuring every child has the chance to succeed, regardless of their family’s financial situation.”
The data reveals that one in five children in New Zealand live in food-insecure households, a situation that has worsened with the cost-of-living crisis. It also shows that this issue disproportionately impacts Māori communities, with 35% of tamariki Māori living in households that have food insecurity, underscoring the urgent need for a comprehensive, nationwide free school lunch program.
Harema adds, “Another nonsensical decision by this government, that will have a generational impact. At a time when economic pressures are at an all-time high, continuing this initiative is not just beneficial-it’s imperative,”.
Hāpai Te Hauora is calling on community leaders, policymakers, and the public to support the expansion of free school lunch programs. Together, we can make a significant impact on the lives of our tamariki and rangatahi, paving the way for a healthier, more equitable future for all New Zealanders, especially in these challenging times.