Thursday, January 23, 2014

Lindsay Mitchell: Shearer on "hand-outs"

Ex Labour leader, David Shearer has made some surprising comments in a column published in the NZ Herald today.

Despite sponsoring a private members bill to feed children in decile 1-3 schools he obviously has major misgivings about it.
Since my Food in Schools Bill - to provide food to lower-decile schools - was drawn out of the Parliamentary ballot in October, I've been rethinking this course of action.
My meetings with principals, doctors, charities and communities have convinced me that some important adjustments should be made to the bill. 
My research took me to a wonderful school, Owairaka District School, where 8-year-old students served me a lunch of vegetarian pizza from their own pizza oven, salad from their garden, and muffins made with eggs from their chickens and honey from their hives. 
Owairaka is a decile 2 school but the children are kept nourished and learning through this innovative garden-to-table programme. 
But more critically, they are picking up the lifetime skills of gardening and food preparation - and they are doing it alongside family and community volunteers who also benefit. 
It's win, win, win - so much better than a hand-out for the kids - and it raised a question I have grappled with since my bill was drawn. 
Is it right to impose a one-size-fits-all solution on to every low-decile school in the form of a food hand-out?
An important Labour MP questioning the hand-out philosophy? That won't sit well with his colleagues
There's an old saying: give someone a fish and it will feed them for a day; teach someone to fish and it will feed them for a lifetime. 
Of course, we all agree that no child should be hungry at school. But what's missing is a programme that will not only fix that but also improve nutrition and ensure self-reliance. 
Before coming into politics I ran huge feeding programmes for starving kids, including one for 30,000 children in Somalia. 
Without that food, those children would have died. But the programme was always designed to be temporary. As soon as the crisis passed, the families moved on, relying on themselves.
My fear is that we will institutionalise dependence through relying solely on a feeding programme. We need to be far more forward-looking.
Surely Shearer has extended his thinking beyond the provision of food? Dependence is firmly institutionalised amongst certain groups in this country thanks to weekly cash hand-outs. Yet his party wants to make those hand-outs more generous in terms of availability and size.

And as it stands, the hand-outs aren't there to cushion until the "crisis [has] passed". For many they exist to fund a life of chosen dependence on other people's money. That institutionalisation then saps them of the will to take responsibility for things like feeding their children. They simply expect more hand-outs.

However, despite his misgivings Shearer continues:
My bill originally aimed to legislate for food to be available in every decile 1, 2 and 3 school that wants it, so poorer communities can have confidence their children won't be hungry at school. 
That's a start, but I'm going back to the drawing board so we can address the issues of nutrition and encourage self-reliance. We have lost the basic skills of how to garden and provide for ourselves.
As well as how to work and provide for ourselves.

Regarding feeding kids in school, Shearer's obvious conflict is shared by many. To solve it the child is separated from the parent. The failure of the parent is ignored in order to address the child's need. I think it's a mistake. It's only going to breed more reliance on the state. I fully expect that when Labour introduced the DPB somebody was arguing that is was necessary so single parents could ensure their children were fed.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

...unbelievable ...civilization is back to the understanding of the three "basics of human life" Food...Clothing and Shelter... "We can checkout but never leave..."