Shearer’s push for ‘Foods in Schools’
By David Shearer MP, Labour Party spokesman for Foreign Affairs and Energy
When I was a child, my Dad kept a big vege garden in our backyard. My brother and sister and I helped, and it was my responsibility to feed the chickens we kept for eggs.
Like most families back then, we were largely self-sufficient when it came to fruit and vegetables.
I took it for granted, but in adulthood I’ve come to appreciate what I learned in that garden: a sense of independence and self-sufficiency, as well as the practical gardening skills that I still use today.
If only all Kiwi kids were so lucky.
These days, a third of New Zealand children are either overweight or obese.
In just a generation we’ve largely lost those wonderful gardening skills, and moved to a diet that’s heavy on the sugar, fat and salt, and light on the nutrients our body needs.
Obesity brings other problems, like diabetes and heart disease.
Heart disease accounts for more than 40% of all deaths in New Zealand.
It’s the single most common cause of death here.
Who’s going to pay for this problem?
Poor nutrition is creating a crisis that will soon swamp our hospitals, and we’ll pay for it though our taxes.
That’s why I’ve got a ‘Food In Schools’ bill before parliament at the moment.
Yes I want hungry children fed so they can learn, but just as importantly I want schools to have the option of establishing gardens, so young New Zealanders can learn about nutrition, self-sufficiency and how to make their own healthy lunches from food they have grown.
There are other things we should do too.
We need clear food labelling, so people can tell at a glance what’s healthy and what’s not.
We need to make sure that school tuck shops are filled with nourishing food, not salt- and fat-laden rubbish.
The last Labour government stipulated that only healthy food could be sold in schools.
The current government has changed that, allowing unhealthy foods into schools and child obesity has predictably increased.
Gardens in schools are not just gardens: they’re a means for kids to get out into the fresh air to learn practical skills for a lifetime.
They help children understand what’s good and healthy to put into their bodies.
The other advantage of gardens in schools is that children learn traditional food production techniques from their families and communities, that may otherwise be lost.
And in poorer communities, they allow children to grow their own lunches instead of relying on a handout.
It’s estimated that poor diets are now killing more people in New Zealand than tobacco. That’s both a tragedy and an economic burden New Zealand can’t afford.
I want all Kiwi children to have the good health and advantages I enjoyed as a child.