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Harawira, Banks both slam food in schools

Tuesday 28 May 2013 3:14 p.m.

Mana leader Hone Harawira and ACT's John Banks

Mana leader Hone Harawira and ACT's John Banks

Critics on both sides of the political spectrum are attacking the Government's new partnership with Sanitarium and Fonterra to provide free breakfasts in low-decile schools.

The Government will contribute $1.9 million a year to expand an existing programme, created by the companies, which gives free Weet-Bix and milk to more than 570 decile one to four schools, two days a week.

That will be expanded to five days a week, before being made available to all schools that want it from next year.

Labour leader David Shearer welcomed the new initiative, but was clear he believes it's political point-scoring.

"This is total politics ... The Government has been dragged screaming and kicking into this policy by pressure both from the Labour Party and from the general public," Mr Shearer said.

Mana leader Hone Harawira, who has a private members' bill to set up an expansive programme providing breakfast and lunch in low-decile schools, says the Government is "spitting on" poor children.

"It's a bloody insult what he's put up. John Key bailed out his mates in (South) Canterbury Finance to the tune of $1.7 billion and today he's announced less than $2M [a year] to deal with child poverty."

At the other end of the spectrum is ACT leader John Banks, who says hungry kids are their parents' problem.

"It's wrong for the Government to become the parent and accept parental responsibility for the child that's living in a family in trauma when there's already plenty of welfare structure in place to make sure there's a couple of Weet-Bix and hot milk in the morning.

"Is the next thing lunch, and then dinner?"

Prime Minister John Key also announced an extra $1.5M in funding to KidsCan over three years to provide clothing and health programmes in schools.

Labour's social development spokeswoman Jacinda Ardern says the announcements - part of the Government's response to an expert report on child poverty - aren't adequate.

"Beyond putting food in schools, this government has demonstrated an absolute lack of interest in addressing wider poverty issues."

Social Development Minister Paula Bennett says the Government is still considering the report's recommendations.


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