A Majority Labor Government will introduce government-funded healthy lunches in all government primary schools across the state over the next six years in a $31.8 million initiative which will improve school attendance and lead to better educational outcomes and healthier lives for future generations of Tasmanian children.
Labor Leader Rebecca White said while the Gutwein Government had made only a token effort in relation to good nutrition and healthier eating habits for Tasmanian children, Labor was dedicated to a wholesale change across all government primary schools to give kids the best possible start in life.
“Too many Tasmanian children are being left behind because of poor nutrition when they should be supported to engage in education and live healthier lives,” Ms White said.
“Approximately 30 per cent of Tasmanian kids aged between 12 and 15 are overweight and nearly 10 per cent of these children are obese but evidence shows that if children aged between five and 11 are given the chance to eat healthy lunches they will learn behaviour that will continue into their teens and beyond.
“Governments need to be making genuine investment in children’s health and wellbeing to ensure our kids lead happy, healthy and active lives and are able to contribute to their communities.”
Labor’s plan will see government-funded healthy lunches rolled out over six years at a cost of $31.8 million at full implementation starting with 25 schools in the first year and adding remaining schools over the following five years.
The fully costed plan includes funding for healthy menus, additional staff, equipment support and kitchen upgrades.
Shadow Education Minister Josh Willie said the staged roll-out over six years would enable schools that were not already equipped to provide lunches to build capacity and become involved through an expression of interest process.
“When kids eat a healthy diet with a wide variety of fruit and vegetables, there are benefits like improved concentration – the government’s own school lunch trial and other jurisdictions delivering lunches demonstrate that,” Mr Willie said.
“Tasmania has some of the best produce in the world and a program such as this provides fantastic teaching and learning opportunities.
“The Liberals have turned this into a welfare issue, when it should be about establishing healthy habits early which, in turn, will lead to better education engagement and outcomes.
“Labor’s plan is far more equitable – providing lunch on a universal basis minimises any stigma associated with food insecurity. The focus should be on improving health and education outcomes and all Tasmanian children deserve this investment.”
Rebecca White MP
Josh Willie MLC
Shadow Education Minister