Labour leader David Shearer this afternoon delivered a major speech on education policy to supporters at St Leonards Road School in West Auckland. Labour would like to see a roll out of free food to 650 of the lowest decile primary and intermediate schools in the country.
Shearer said Labour would spend in excess of $10m per year working with existing community and voluntary organisations to roll out the food in all decile one to three primary and intermediate schools.
''If kids turn up to school not having eaten breakfast, without shoes, or sick because their house is cold and damp, it's obvious they won't get the best start,'' Shearer said.
''I hear people argue that this is the responsibility of parents. We can debate that endlessly but it won't change this reality: tomorrow morning kids will still turn up to school hungry. And a hungry kid is a distracted kid who can disrupt an entire classroom.''
He also confirmed Labour would extend the ''Reading Recovery'' programme to a further 5000 children a year and develop a parallel 'maths recovery' programme for struggling children with numeracy to get one-on-one help by age 7 or 8.
Speaking in Vladivostok, Russia, this morning Prime Minister John Key said the ''vast bulk'' of lower decile schools had free fruit provided and there was ''often a breakfast programme''.
''Not every school wants every child to be provided a lunch,'' Key said.
''There are many families that can provide those lunches. But what we need to have, I think, is a mechanism to make sure that if a child is hungry, there is food provided. In my experience, most of those decile one to three schools have that and are dealing with the issue. But obviously, you'll see with a number of schools on the waiting list for the KidsCan [food in schools programme] that more needs to be done.''
What is your view on the use of government spending on providing food in lower decile schools? and how do you think it could be improved?