Why didn’t Shearer do this when he was leader?

I like David Shearer, he is a thinker…and sometimes he really says some very good things.

Why on earth he didn’t do these sort of thing when he was leader.

The impression that the Labour caucus and union movement had David Shearer’s balls in a rat trap when he was leader grows stronger by the day.

He is showing a streak of independence now.

There’s no doubt that New Zealand has a poverty problem and many of our children go to school without breakfast. That hinders their learning.

At the moment, charities and corporate sponsors are stepping up to deliver free food to poorer schools for those children.

Is this the best way to address the problem? I used to think it was.

But last year I visited Yendarra School. It serves a decile 1A community in Otara, making it one of the poorest primary schools in the country ? yet they have said ‘no’ to government food hand outs.

Why? Because Yendarra has worked hard, in partnership with their families, to develop a school culture that values good nutrition. And, they’ve achieved healthy lunches for 100% of their children: fruit, vegetables, sandwiches and milk.

You can see the wellness in the children’s faces. Obesity levels are down, and the ability of the children to concentrate on their work in class is up.

If they can achieve those results in one of the poorest neighbourhoods in New Zealand, I believe any school should be able to do it.

That’s why I’m looking for all political parties to support my Food In Schools Bill that will come before Parliament in the next few weeks. Through many conversations with parents, doctors, teachers, school principals and schoolchildren themselves, I have become convinced that free food solves nothing.

I now believe that each school community should be resourced to find and deliver its own long-term food solutions.

We should be supporting schools to teach children the lifelong skills of self-sufficiency, nutrition and gardening that our parents and grandparents knew well. Somehow those skills seem to have skipped a generation, but our children deserve to have a chance at self-reliance.

This is top drawer stuff that we should be hearing from National politicians. Instead it is from a Labour politician but it is a certainly worthwhile having the discussion around these ideas.

At the moment we have a top-down, one-size-fits-all approach. Instead, I want to see schools resourced to apply their own solutions based on what is already working in schools like Yendarra.

There are many ways to do it and Yendarra School isn’t the only one doing it well. When I last visited Owairaka School, for example, in a decile two community, the children were preparing a lunch of pizza and salad followed by muffins. They had grown all the greens and tomatoes for the salad and pizza, their flock of chickens had laid the eggs for the muffins, and their beehives had provided the honey. The school has a fruit-tree orchard, huge garden beds, and a community that has rallied around the school to provide all-hands-on-deck.

With better food comes better health and with better health come fewer chronic diseases and hospital admissions that cost the country so much in taxpayer dollars.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned in my work as a teacher, as a parent, as a humanitarian with the UN, and as a politician, it’s that people and communities operate best when they’re engaged in providing their own solutions for their own problems.

I asked the principal of Yendarra School, Susan Dunlop, why her community had turned down free food from the government. She explained that most parents at her school are busy and hard-working, sometimes holding down several jobs, many of them part-time or shift-work.

Feeding their children nourishing meals is a way they can show love to their families every day. They didn?t want that important role taken away from them ? and neither should we.

That is a very good piece from Shearer, it’s just a shame he didn’t do that when leader.


– Radio Live