Children suffering stomach cramps from hunger, boys in their dad’s hand-me-down shoes held together with masking tape, and a rise in anxiety amongst many students as their parents’ incomes are hit by Covid-19. These are the stories from schools who have reached out for KidsCan help since the virus hit.
KidsCan is extending its support to all 36 of those schools, bringing the total number of schools the charity helps to more than 800. It means 200,000 children in a third of all schools in New Zealand now have access to KidsCan’s food, shoes, raincoats and healthcare programmes including period products.
“Covid-19 continues to hit already vulnerable communities hard,” KidsCan’s CEO Julie Chapman says. “Schools are telling us that some students are juggling their school work with jobs to support their families. Others are increasingly disengaged from both hunger and anxiety. Teachers say some children are just in survival mode, meaning education has become ‘a luxury’.”
It means that low decile schools are doing much more than teaching, as teachers go above and beyond to support students and their families through the Covid-19 fallout.
“Teachers have been baking, making sandwiches and even stews using their own money. Principals are op shopping for clothes. One school held a mufti day to fundraise for breakfast food,” Chapman says. “This is a heavy burden for schools to carry and we’re pleased to be able to lift some of that from them.”
KidsCan is feeding 10,000 more children a day than in 2019, sending 1160 tonnes of food from its warehouse this year. It has doubled the amount of hot lunches provided to school children to more than 1.2 million servings - fuelling children who may not receive a hot meal at home. The charity has also extended its support to 37 more early childhood centres, but has 128 more waiting for help.
“For some children, the food they receive at school or kindy is their main nutrition for the day,” Chapman says. “Their parents are doing their best, but with job losses and income cuts on top of high rent and food prices there are days when the food runs out. We need to be doing all we can to support these families. We know 2021 isn’t going to be easier on them, and we’re calling on anyone who is in a position to help to donate.”