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Thousands of kids expected to go to school hungry

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Thousands of children are expected to head back to school hungry as the economic fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic hits low income families.

New Zealand charity KidsCan says they have seen a 30 per cent increase in demand for food support, as its partner schools seek to feed 10,000 more children a day.

This term, KidsCan will help feed almost 44,000 children in 787 schools and 57 early childhood centres nationwide.

"For many children, this lockdown will have been an incredibly rough time, with not enough food to go around at home," says KidsCan’s CEO Julie Chapman.

“Distressingly, some will have seen their parents lose their jobs, and have to ask for help for the first time. Being able to get food at school will become essential."

More than 1000 New Zealanders a day went on a Jobseeker benefit in April, while demand for food grants rose dramatically.

With schools closed, KidsCan distributed food parcels to 4,000 vulnerable families struggling to get support outside main centres.

This term the charity is sending an unprecedented amount of food to schools. 152 tonnes of food - 1.4 million servings - has been packed and distributed.

It includes 315,000 servings of hot meals: tortellini, country vegetable soup, hearty beef hot pot, and butter chicken and rice; 387,000 servings of Tasti raw nuts; 60,800 servings of Easiyo yoghurt and 234,000 OSM snack bars.

KidsCan is also providing 10,000 fresh lunches and snacks a week to pre-schoolers in early childhood centres.

"Teachers in low decile schools have been more worried about their students’ wellbeing than what they’ve learned over lockdown," says Julie.

"We know they’re looking forward to being able to feed them at school again. Once we take care of that hunger, they can get back to learning."

The record demand comes as KidsCan’s fundraising events were cancelled, leaving a large revenue shortfall.

The charity’s principal partner, Meridian Energy, recently announced an incredible $1 million donation which has allowed KidsCan to meet the increased need this term.

The power company matched the extraordinary $1 million donated by Kiwis to fund the emergency food parcels, with excess donations also helping to meet demand from schools.

“The government's lunch fund expansion is welcome news - it's going to take a village to get us through this pandemic. We'll continue to provide breakfast food, snacks, raincoats, shoes and socks, sanitary items and other health essentials to all 787 schools we support, and hot lunches to schools the government can't reach.

"We're also working really hard to increase our support to our under 5s. We have thousands of children in nearly 100 early childhood centres waiting to join our Early Childhood programme. It's crucial we get to them as soon as we can."

KidsCan has more than 4000 children in 10 schools and nearly 100 early childhood centres waiting for support.

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