University of Oulu

Hungry to learn : a critical analysis of New Zealand’s debate and inconsistent approach to school meals, with lessons from Finland’s broadly supported universal programme

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Author: Pierard, Miriam1
Organizations: 1University of Oulu, Faculty of Education, Educational Sciences
Format: ebook
Version: published version
Access: open
Online Access: PDF Full Text (PDF, 2.4 MB)
Pages: 198
Persistent link:
Language: English
Published: Oulu : M. Pierard, 2021
Publish Date: 2021-08-23
Thesis type: Master's thesis
Tutor: Karjalainen, Magda
Reviewer: Jokikokko, Katri
Karjalainen, Magda


The impact of poverty and hunger on children’s education and life outcomes is a pervasive problem in Aotearoa New Zealand, but effective action to ensure all children are well fed at school is obstructed by debate about who is responsible. I investigate this issue with a critical lens and seek to identify conditions for consensus and collaboration to address it. To do this, I explore the potential of school meals to alleviate the impact of inequalities, food insecurity and hunger on education globally. I also map the tension between ideological arguments about individual or collective responsibility that inform different countries’ approaches to food in schools. Finland provides an example of a universal free school meals programme long upheld by social and political consensus about its value for individuals and the country, and the collective role of government and society to provide it. To consider Finnish lessons for New Zealand, I broadly compare the two countries’ respective attitudes and approaches within their sociohistorical contexts, highlighting unintentional happenings and intentional acts that contributed to their development. Finally, I identify common ground and points of divergence in a critical thematic analysis of competing arguments and ideologies embodied in two New Zealand parliamentary debates that ultimately saw proposals to legislate government responsibility for targeted food in schools being narrowly defeated. I conclude it is both necessary and possible to bridge the deep-seated divide and foster consensus in Aotearoa New Zealand. Evidence, common perspectives, lessons from Finland and our own unique opportunities can advance cooperation so all children on these islands can be nourished and supported in their learning and development.

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Copyright information: © Miriam Pierard, 2021. This publication is copyrighted. You may download, display and print it for your own personal use. Commercial use is prohibited.