Health experts and community leaders are aligned with whānau and public opinion to expand Ka Ora Ka Ako – Healthy School Lunches in the latest release of Growing Up in New Zealand data.
HCA Food Policy Expert Panel member and dietitian Mafi Funaki-Tahifote says the data provides a glimpse of whānau struggling with food insecurity, but she sees worse on the ground.
“Every single person I speak to in my clinics says the skyrocketing cost of food makes putting healthy kai on the table and in kids’ lunchboxes harder than it has ever been. This data is serious and tells us we need urgent action to help people right now. One of the best ways we can support whānau with the cost-of-living crisis is to at least double Ka Ora Ka Ako, which only covers 25% of schools.”
“By ensuring at least one nutritious meal a day, we can also give our tamariki and rangatahi the best chance to thrive at school.” says Funaki-Tahifote
Funaki-Tahifote says the other clear picture from the data is the persistent ethnic inequity around who experiences food insecurity. She says we need an overarching national strategy to address this, in addition to short-term action.
“Pacific Peoples and Māori already faced huge food and income insecurity. It’s no surprise that we’re being hit inequitably far harder now and it’s totally unacceptable. Nutrition is about everything, it touches health, employment and even our education system. So, the only way we can reduce those inequities is through broad social and economic change.
“We need a national food sovereignty and nutrition strategy led by Government and co-created by communities and food and health experts. Having a strategy in place rather than leaving families at the mercy of the market would create a just and equitable food system which empowers everyone to lead healthier and more sustainable lives.”
Source: Health Coalition Aotearoa