The reality of what some Kiwi families in poverty are surviving on has been laid bare in a new KidsCan campaign, as more than 3,000 children in early childhood centres and schools around New Zealand wait for the charity’s support.
Renowned chefs Peter Gordon, Nadia Lim, Michael Van de Elzen and Allyson Gofton are calling for public help to reach them. In a series of hard-hitting videos, they prepare heartbreakingly meagre meals, each based on a real story from a family living in hardship.
Nadia Lim cooks “red soup”, the leftover water that cheerios have been boiled in; Peter Gordon cooks “beef ragout”, a mix of only boiled water and mince; Allyson Gofton makes tomato risotto, with just rice and tomato sauce; while Michael Van de Elzen’s “Bouillon de Poulet” is a chicken frame boiled in water.
Lim, who donates monthly to KidsCan, said she felt sick when she read the “recipe” for red soup. She encouraged Kiwis to imagine themselves in the shoes of those in poverty. “Especially as a mum, it’s incredibly upsetting to think of being in a situation where you wouldn’t have anything to feed your children. It’s horrendously awful,” she said.
“It needs to change, and it’s quite amazing that just by providing simple things it can really change a child’s life. Making sure kids have a full belly when they go to school so they can learn properly will help break the cycle. We really, really need to get behind this so no Kiwi kid goes hungry.”
Van de Elzen said children would get no nutrition from chicken frame soup. “It just makes it so, so, so important what KidsCan does. Without their food… what would happen to them and those little bodies that need the energy, that need the nutrition, that needs all those sparks in their brains to fire?”
KidsCan is now feeding a record 34,000 children in schools and early childhood centres across New Zealand. The charity has just sent out 133,539 kilograms of food to schools (134 tonnes) - enough to fill more than 28 shipping containers.
787 schools receive a range of breakfast, lunch and snack food including yoghurt, bread, spreads, fruit, baked beans, muesli bars, scroggin and hot meals of soups, curries and pasta. 25 early childhood centres receive yoghurt, fresh fruit and ingredients for five fresh lunches a week, in a programme that is currently being expanded to more centres. All food provided is endorsed by the Heart Foundation.
KidsCan’s CEO Julie Chapman said all Kiwi kids deserved to be sitting down to proper meals, but for some, KidsCan’s food was the only real sustenance on some days.
“We know that many families are at breaking point as they try to stretch budgets which are being consumed by very high rents, back to school costs or an unexpected bill. For most of the week they manage to provide for their families, but it’s often the day before pay day that the food runs out, and they resort to these heartbreaking meals.
“We’re seeing no letup in need. Despite having just taken 47 new schools into our programme, we still have 3,085 children waiting for food, shoes, raincoats and health essentials like sanitary items and head lice treatment. We need kind Kiwis to help us get to them.”