Today in Parliament I asked the Education Minister, the Hon Sarah Courtney, if she agree that a healthy diet is important for school-aged children, and if so, would she introduce a healthy lunch program that would be available to all primary school students in government schools.
Unfortunately, other than a few platitudes, I received no assurance that healthy lunches would be available any time soon to all primary students in government schools.
Ms Courtney referred to the success of a pilot program in improving health outcomes in children. She then proceeded to announce another pilot. Why? There’s no need to do further pilots or research as we know the benefits from these programs from all around the world.
I say to the government, don’t play political games with our children’s health. It is clear that a modest investment now will reap benefits in generations to come with healthier eating habits and therefore a healthier community.
The full text of my question follows:
My question is to the Minister for Education;
Minister, you would be aware that one of the election promises the Labor Party took to the recent election was a plan to provide lunches to all primary school children in government schools.
Minister, as a genuine independent in this Parliament it is my intention to support good ideas no matter where they come from, and this is one policy I do agree with.
You would also be aware from your previous responsibilities as health minister that, as a preventive health initiative, a good diet at a young age will not only improve education outcomes and attendances at primary school, but also help to instill healthy eating habits into adulthood.
It is important, Minister, to acknowledge that a school lunch program that only targeted needy children would almost certainly stigmatise those children. We know how cruel the school yard can be. And how do we determine which children deserve a nutritious meal, and who don’t?
Minister, do you agree that a healthy diet is important for school-aged children?
If so, will you put political rivalries to one side and introduce a healthy lunch program that would be available to all primary school students in government schools?