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Children's right to adequate nutrition in New Zealand

Every child has the right to adequate nutrition under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. In New Zealand, an estimated 100,000 New Zealand children go to school every day without breakfast. Article 11 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights recognises 'the fundamental right for everyone to be free from hunger’.

In the Auckland region, there are approximately 43,000 children in decile 1 and 2 state schools. Of these 57% are Pasifica, 30% are Māori, and 4% are European. The remaining 9% are Asian/Middle Eastern and other ethnic groups. The Ministry of Health advised the Minister in 2006 that "decile one and two schools draw their students from our most vulnerable communities and cope with multiple issues related to poverty".

A 2002 Ministry of Health survey found that there is a high percentage of children between the age of 5 to 14 who "sometimes or always ate nothing before school", compared to a New Zealand Health Survey that found around 15% of children leave for school without eating breakfast.

The Children's Commissioner released a Framework for Food in Schools Programme stating "Children need to be fed adequately for a range of nutritional, educational and social reasons and should be fed regardless of their parent's income or status. To end this, breakfast should be made available to decile 1 and 2 primary, intermediate and primary intermediate combined schools."

The evolution of children’s right itself to adequate nutrition has fast been on the rise in the last 10 years. In 2004, 26% of children were reported as living in serious or significant hardship. In 2005, the Child Poverty Action Group published Hard to Swallow which sounded alarms about the increasing number of families who resorted to using food banks. Key recommendations of the 2005 report that free but good quality breakfasts should be provided for children in decile 1 and 2 primary and intermediate schools as a means of ensuring that the most vulnerable children were sufficiently nourished to enable them to learn efficiently at school.

  • availability and sustainability of funding;
  • availability and sustainability of assistance. Paid staff and volunteers can be difficult to recruit and retain
  • local support for the club.
  • support for the aims of the club, i.e. whether health promotion is included as part of the programme, or whether there is a perception that the programme is a babysitting service;
  • school catchment and attendance levels. Some schools charged for breakfast, and the evaluation found attendance at breakfast clubs was lower in areas where low-income families are less likely to be able to afford breakfasts;
  • operational and logistical issues including food quality and health and safety considerations. This may include the safety of children coming to school early (e.g. across busy roads with no supervised crossings).
  • KidsCan: Providing non-perishable goods such as bread, baked beans and spreads to 276 participating schools on a termly basis. Non-food items are also provided such as raincoats and footwear. KidsCan receives $150,000 per annum from the Government and more substantial amounts from New Zealand business.
  • Fruit in Schools: Providing fruit to all decile 1 and 2 schools, a fully funded Government scheme at around $7 million per annum.
  • KickStart: Providing Weetbix and milk to 500 participating schools across New Zealand two days a week, fully supported by Fonterra and Sanitarium.
  • Fonterra Milk in Schools: Providing milk and refrigerators to 120 participating schools.
  • Health Promotion Agency- Breakfast Eaters Promotion: this promotion does not include provisions of food.
  • Garden to Table Programme: involving nine schools supported by an international trust to develop edible gardens.
  • Health Promoting Schools: advisors contracted by the ministry of health work directly within the school.
  • Schools and communities do their own things with a mix of community sponsorship, private funding, and relationships with businesses.


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