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Question Time: Will Labor introduce a free school meals program for Qld kids?

On Tuesday 1 December 2020, Michael asked Education Minister Grace Grace if the government will create a free school meals program.

You can read the answer below or in the official Queensland Parliament Record of Proceedings (Hansard).

Mr BERKMAN: My question is to the education minister. Foodbank tells us one in five Queensland kids come to school without breakfast, one in seven go without lunch and now the latest HILDA data shows our child poverty rate is the second highest in the country. Will the government follow the lead of Victoria and New South Wales and create a free school meals program to make sure every Queensland kid can learn on a full stomach?

Ms GRACE: I thank the member for Maiwar for the question. I notice that their election commitment was that they were going to feed, I think it was, every schoolchild two meals a day— breakfast and lunch. I think they were going to do it on a great budget of 20 cents per kid. It would be interesting to know exactly how they intended to feed everyone. I think someone in the Greens really struggles with numbers. They had a little bit of a problem assessing how many kids are going to school and what they would need to spend to provide a nutritious meal for kids. They cannot do it with 20 to 25 cents per child. That is figure based on the amount they were allocating for this.

Having said that, of course we want children to go to school with a full belly so that they can learn well at school. Unfortunately, there are areas around Queensland where some kids go to school without a heartily breakfast. I am very pleased to say that schools around the state have breakfast programs for children because it is very hard to teach a child sitting in front of you who is hungry. We are proud that we have expanded our breakfast program, in conjunction with the department of communities and local schools. I have seen many of them in action when I have toured around schools right across this great state. We do it on a bit more than 20 cents per kid. They get a fairly substantial breakfast and then they can start their day. We continually expand this program based on need. It is a program that is working wonders for those children right throughout the state and it is one that we are very proud of in this state.

I am not sure exactly what New South Wales and Victoria are doing in relation to meals. I am not aware that they are implementing free meals for every child in their state. I would have to check that. Here in Queensland we do what is necessary. We do what is best for students and we do what is best for families. If families can feed their children and enjoy their time in the mornings around the breakfast table, I do not want to interfere with that. I actually think that that is a wonderful time of the day for families to come together. Where they do not and where children need assistance, let me tell the member for Maiwar that schools provide a wonderful breakfast program and they also provide programs if children do not come to school with lunches. Those programs are expanded continuously. Those schools do a fantastic job. I credit the schools around the state and the tuckshop mums and dads for doing a fantastic job. Well done.

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