According to the child commissioner report, as many as 28% of kiwi kids face extreme hardship due to the fact that they live in households with very low incomes. How sad is that?
We did a research paper last year while studying culinary arts at the Food Design Institute at the Otago Polytechnic. We closely monitored intermediate kids at low decile schools in Dunedin. We were following leads from our previous research which proved that there were many food insecured people in Dunedin. Our results were quite comparable to what the child commissioner report suggests.
There were kids in these schools who had absolutely nothing in their school bags for lunch or morning and afternoon teas. A few had a bag or chips or other unhealthy snacks for eating while at the school. A few other kids had some gold coins to be used in the nearby diaries to purchase so called snack packs that were full of cheap and nasty sugary and saturated fat loaded eats. Shockingly, only a handful of the students carried healthy, well balanced lunches.
A significant number of studies have been conducted elsewhere in the world where it had been proven without doubt that kids need healthy food during their adolescent years. Lack of that can do irreversible damage to cognitive behaviour making them vulnerable to all negative outcomes later on a in their lives. Needless to mention that these kids are the future of New Zealand and having a quarter of then going through such hardship is not a good picture.
Our research clearly showed that there were three core reasons for food insecurity with these kids.
1) Poverty: There was not enough money available to buy any food let alone healthy nutruitional food.
2) Lack of nutrition knowledge: Parents who were giving their kids packets of chips and chocolates for lunch clearly had no idea about nutrition. Also those parents who gave their kids a few dollars each day didn’t know much about nutrition either.
3) Lack of budgeting knowledge: Finally, a group of parents who keep getting into financial difficulties towards the end of the week due to average budgeting skills.
We are now ready to run a pilot project to show and prove that healthy nutritional food can make a significant difference in the lives of these kids and quite possibly their future. We intend to feed a group of these kids nutritional lunches on each school day for a period of a whole school term. We would keep a data of the control group and compare the impact of nutritional food on three key parameters, school attendance, subject grades and cognitive behaviour.
We intend to involve the kids and their primary care givers in three different ways. Involve them in cooking process, run cooking classes and offer budgeting sessions through social workers.