Celebrity chefs' miserable meals put spotlight on food poverty

Celebrity chefs' miserable meals put spotlight on food poverty

Monday, March 2, 2020

A new recipe by top chef Nadia Lim will raise a few eyebrows.

It's called red soup, and is made from the reheated, leftover water used to cook cheerios in.

"Let it simmer away for a few minutes until it's nice and hot and ready to serve," the Masterchef winner and My Food Bag co-founder says in a new video.

"And that's dinner for a whole family."

The recipe is based on a real story from a New Zealand family living in poverty. The provocative video is part of a new campaign by charity Kidscan to raise money for families in need.

Lim said she felt sick when she heard about the red soup "recipe".

"Especially as a mum, it's incredibly upsetting to think of being in a situation where you wouldn't have anything to feed your children. It's horrendously awful," she said.

Other high-profile chefs Allyson Gofton, Peter Gordon and Michael Van de Elzen were also participating in the campaign.

Gofton cooks a meal of rice and tomato sauce, Gordon makes a mix of boiled water and mince and Van de Elzen's meal is chicken frames boiled in water. All are based on meals reported to Kidscan by hungry families in New Zealand.

Kidscan CEO Julie Chapman said family budgets were being stretched by high rents and back-to-school costs.

"For most of the week they manage to provide for their families, but it's often the day before pay day that the food runs out, and they resort to these heartbreaking meals."

The charity was feeding 34,000 children in schools and early childhood centres. Chapman said that for many of them, it was the only real sustenance they had in a day.

Otahuhu Primary School principal Jason Swann also cited the effect of rising housing costs on families' ability to properly feed their children. Local households were extremely sensitive to rates or rent rises, he said.

His school provides free breakfasts and lunches to students, and around 60 students from the roll of 550 eat the free school meals every day.

"We just want kids to be settled, happy and learning really well," Swann said. "And if they're hungry they're not learning, they're in survival mode, they're thinking about their next meal, not about a mathematics equation or learning another language."

Swann rejected the argument that providing free school meals was letting parents off the hook.

"In my experience, being here for over 10 years, I see parents who are working so extremely hard but just not being able to get above water.

"Some parents are working two jobs. And when it comes to the niceties of life, there is no extra money - vegetables and fruit are very expensive."

Food poverty has come into sharper focus as high rents and housing costs swallow up more of New Zealanders' budgets.

Around one in eight New Zealand children (151,700) live in material hardship, according to data published last week.

Ministry for Social Development data shows soaring demand for assistance with buying groceries. The number of food grants given to households rose from 92,167 in 2014 to 307,291 in 2019.

The Coalition Government introduced a free lunch programme for 7000 students last year, and will expand it to 21,000 students by the end of 2021.