Families cutting food budgets and kids missing meals because of back-to-school costs

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Families across the country are being forced to cut food budgets and kids are missing meals because of costs associated with sending children back to school.

The principal of Rangeview Intermediate School in West Auckland says one-off set-up costs of about $420 per child have seen some families struggle to buy enough food.

"We've got people who are really struggling and you couldn't even guarantee that the children will necessarily go home to a dinner every night," says Glenda Koefoed.

At Rowandale School in South Auckland, principal Karl Vasau says children are coming to school who haven't had dinner the night before.

"On average our families are earning somewhere below $29,000 a year for a household," says Vasau.

"You can't do much with $29,000, so the reality for a lot of families is that it's a struggle to make ends meet."

Vasau says his school gives breakfast to about 80 kids every morning and dishes out a further 100 sandwiches every day for lunch.

The squeeze on family budgets has seen the number of schools on the KidsCan charity waiting list surge to its highest number in three years.

The charity, which provides food, clothing and basic health items to 700 schools across the country, says more than 2600 children from 19 schools are now on its waiting list.

"Coming on the back of Christmas, families living in hardship face the added stress of having to stretch what little they do have even further," says KidsCan CEO and founder Julie Chapman.

"The extent of deprivation some families are living in means more children are turning up to school without food and adequate clothing. Others are even kept home to avoid embarrassment."

Last year KidsCan witnessed a worrying increase in the need for food assistance, as the number of children it feeds climbed to 30,000 a week.

The charity distributed 4.4 million items of food, 47,000 raincoats, 27,000 pairs of shoes and 171,000 health items such as plasters, tissues and hand sanitiser.

KidsCan is asking New Zealanders to help them support even more Kiwi kids in need and become monthly donors.

A donation of $15 a month enables KidsCan to provide a child living in material hardship with food at school, a raincoat, shoes, socks, and basic health and hygiene items – plasters, tissues and hand sanitiser.