Children living in hardship are facing a miserable winter without enough food or adequate clothing, as schools prepare for a drop in attendance. More than 4,000 children in 13 schools and 127 early childhood centres are waiting for KidsCan’s help, as teachers ask for support.
“Winter is the toughest time of year for a child living in poverty. Many live in freezing homes where hot food and warm clothes are scarce,” KidsCan’s CEO Julie Chapman says. “That puts extra pressure on schools and early childhood centres, because children can’t function if they are cold or hungry.
“We are constantly expanding our programmes, but we are struggling to keep up with demand. We need help to reach those children on our waitlist who are in desperate need of support.”
Research for KidsCan by Colmar Brunton found food insecurity is the biggest barrier to students attending, learning and participating at school. Researchers found 99% of all decile 1-6 primary and secondary schools in NZ witness children living in food insecurity. 73% of decile 1-6 primary schools have children who don't come because the food has run out at home.
KidsCan supports students in 829 schools with breakfast, snacks, hot meals, jackets, shoes and health items. This winter, it is feeding thousands of children with hot lunches, reaching those schools not covered by the Government’s “Ka Ora, Ka Ako” programme. The charity is seeing record demand for its fleece-lined jackets, with 65,000 students due to receive one.
KidsCan also feeds more than 4,000 pre-schoolers in 112 early childhood centres with fresh lunches and snacks. Every child receives a cosy jacket and a pair of shoes and socks.
“Teachers are finding children in shoes patched with cardboard, tape and staples. They say socks have become “a luxury.” They tell us of children sleeping in their jackets to keep warm in freezing homes,” Chapman says. “It’s awful to think of kids going without the basics – and it’s up to all of us to help those who are finding life pretty tough this winter.”