Charity calls for urgent donations to stop kids going to school hungry

Charity calls for urgent donations to stop kids going to school hungry

Monday, February 1, 2016

With a new school year looming, a children's charity has called for urgent donations to fund food, clothing and healthcare items for low-decile schools.

Public support has enabled the KidsCan charity to implement its basic needs programme in 530 low-decile schools across the country, covering 114,000 pupils. 

These include six Wellington schools, funded after an appeal last year.

But there are still 14 schools nationally which have applied to KidsCan for help, but are on a waiting list because of a lack of funds.

Two of these are Mauriceville School, near Masterton, and Glenview School in Porirua.

Glenview principal Lynda Knight-de Blois said she applied to join the KidsCan programme after starting at decile one Glenview last year, having seen its effectiveness in a previous job. 

Pressure mounted on low-income families not just because of food and clothing, but also the many small extras such as transport, school trips, activities, swimming togs or stationery.

Her school's biggest challenge was non-attendance, which was often poverty-related – even though pupils' families were often rich in other ways, such as loving, extended families and cultural experiences.

"But for some families there may be times when their children do not attend because in the income cycle there might be days when there is no money to buy food for school."

In those cases parents might be too embarrassed to send their children.

A lack of transport, and sometimes, shoes or raincoats also often prevented kids turning up, or from learning if they did make it.

"We all know how hard it is to concentrate if you're hungry."

The school provided food for children but having KidsCan support would make it easier for them to ask.

Also, with only 70 pupils Glenview struggled for funds, so feeding or clothing pupils was a strain, despite some "amazing" community support.  

KidsCan chief executive Julie Chapman said this time of year was tough for many parents, generally through no fault of their own.

"It's really important to bust the myth that families living in hardship are doing the wrong thing with their money."

Many households' incomes were just too low, she said.

It costs about $8000 to fund a school for a year, via individuals pledging 50 cents a day to sponsor one child, along with business sponsorship.

The money went directly to children, not to running the charity, Chapman said.