Vulnerable children living in hardship are facing their toughest winter yet as the economic impact of the Covid-19 pandemic hits home. Schools surveyed by KidsCan are reporting more students arriving without enough food or warm clothes. They are bracing for further hardship, with economists warning a second wave of job cuts is starting to hit.
In response, KidsCan is distributing a record 211 tonnes of food this term - a 40% increase on term two. The charity, which supports children in 787 schools and 57 early childhood centres, has had to find extra storage as its warehouse overflows.
“Teachers are telling us that for many Kiwi kids living in poverty this is the toughest winter yet,” KidsCan’s CEO Julie Chapman says. “The working poor are being hard hit by job losses. Some families have lost their homes as they can’t keep up with rent. Some are spending days without power in cold rentals as they can’t afford to top up the meter. They’re sacrificing food. It means more children are coming to school hungry and cold, and that’s deeply concerning.”
KidsCan supports children with breakfast, snacks, lunch, raincoats, shoes and health items including period products, so they can focus on learning. This winter it is stepping up its provision of hot lunches: 486,000 servings of soups, tortellini, butter chicken, beef chilli, chicken stroganoff and rice will keep children fuelled - 170,000 more meals than term two.
KidsCan also feeds 2,000 preschoolers in 57 early childhood centres with fresh lunches and snacks. Nearly 100 more centres have asked for help, and the charity is working to expand the programme as quickly as possible.
“We need to do all we can to support vulnerable families through this crisis. It’s incredibly stressful when you cannot provide enough for your children,” Chapman says. “Support at school is becoming more crucial - it may be the only hot meal children get a day. We’re also sending out thousands of fleece-lined jackets and solid shoes so kids make it to school warm and dry. No child should be sitting in class feeling hungry or cold.”
KidsCan has received huge support from its corporate partners to help with its Covid-19 response, including a $1 million donation from principal partner Meridian Energy. Additionally, ASB has just distributed an extra 5,000 fleece-lined jackets to students in schools around New Zealand.