Collective Efforts

In his recent post, Too quick to take the credit? Morgan Godfery argues that it was a “crass” move by the Māori Party to put out a statement taking credit for the $790 million hardship package included in this years Budget. His key argument was that there were others who shifted political thinking such as Matua Hone Harawira with his Feed the Kids Bill and various advocacy groups, and as such that credit lies with those people not the Māori Party. It’s not that I don’t think others have been strong advocates on poverty. I absolutely do and of course agree they all deserve credit for their advocacy. But I think it’s unfair to discount the efforts of Dr Pita Sharples and Dame Tariana Turia and the continued efforts of Matua Te Ururoa Flavell and Whaea Marama Fox, as well as the party’s previous MP’s, parliamentary staff and members and supporters who have advanced the issue of poverty within the party and in their respective communities for the past decade.

Godfery writes that:

[C]laiming the credit for forcing the government to act seems a little, well, crass. Much of the credit belongs to Hone Harawira. It was Hone who did more than anyone else to help put child poverty on the Parliamentary agenda with his Feed the Kids campaign

Firstly, if you have had an opportunity to listen to Flavell’s Budget Speech, you will note that he said the Māori Party pulled it over the line…with a little help from National. After all, no Budget measures can take effect unless the government agree to it. The Māori Party have been strong advocates for poverty since entering Parliament, and the evidence is readily available in their policy manifesto’s. [Discussed further below].

Secondly, I completely agree that Harawira has been an outstanding advocate on issues of poverty and social justice. He certainly put child poverty on the media agenda but the claim he put it on the parliamentary agenda is bold. It’s worth noting that despite his advocacy in the media, Harawira had 2 years to put his Feed the Kids Bill before the house, yet withdrew and delayed on numerous occasions. It was only put forth following the 2014 Election, by NZ Greens Co-Leader Metiria Turei. Also note, the Māori Party voted in favour of that bill.

I also wholeheartedly agree that Campbell Live, Action Station, Child Poverty Action Group, and Auckland Action Against Poverty among other groups have been at the forefront of many community led initiatives to get the government to address poverty in Aotearoa. That doesn’t mean in order to recognise their strong advocacy that we need devolve into adversarialism. To allege misattribution by the Māori Party and essentially accuse them of riding on the coattails of the work of others is itself a misplaced attribution. The collective efforts and the varying roles each of the organisations have in policy development were not dismissed by the Māori Party. But in my view, they have every reason to say we pulled it over the line, since it is the Māori Party who through their relationship accord were able to directly influence that budget decision and absolutely the public pressure from these groups played a vital role in the Māori Party being able to secure that funding for poverty.

Action Station have expressed their tautoko of the Party in the fight against poverty:

And have acknowledged Fox for receiving the Action Station petition at Parliament on 20 May 2015.

On the above it is only fair then that we also take a brief look at the Party’s history of poverty advocacy.

In 2008, the Māori Party entered their first relationship accord with the National Party. At that time, Harawira was an elected MP for the Māori Party under the leadership of Turia and Sharples. The 2008 Policy programme that the Māori Party campaigned on included Ending Child Poverty by 2020. Part of that policy programme included:

  • Rais[ing] core benefit levels
  • Establishing an Every Child Matters fund
  • Investigating the reintroduction of a Universal Child Benefit

In 2011, the Māori Party entered a second relationship accord. At this time Harawira had left and formed his own Mana Party. The 2011 Confidence and Supply Agreement included:

  1. Supporting the ongoing implementation of Whānau Ora
  2. Establishing a Ministerial Committee on Poverty
  3. Urgently addressing the effects of poverty through health and home initiatives

See also: 2011 Maori Party policy package.

In 2014, addressing the effects of poverty was weaved through critical areas of the Party’s policy platform: Whānau Ora, Health, Education, Economic Development, Homes, Family Violence, Enabling Good Lives and so on. The goals stated were to build on the objectives and the progress made since 2008.

For the Party to be reproached for being proud of their contributions, that is, seeing the materialisation of the work their MP’s and the kaimahi behind the scenes have put in to the relationship accord over the past 7 years, is awfully undermining of their efforts.

I do agree with Godfery where he states:

Improving even one life is a positive step, but we can’t claim success until we begin changing the system which reproduces Maori disadvantage generation after generation. Budget gains may help stop the slide, but they won’t reverse it.

However, to my knowledge the Party haven’t claimed success on the “reversal” of poverty – they’ve indicated that the budget gains are a start to improving the lives of our most vulnerable whānau.


Reviving Georgism: George was a root hacker not a branch wriggler

Universal Basic Income vs Minimum/Living Wage

Bryce Edwards compiled a round-up of the inequality debates regarding NZ’s 2014 Election. I suppose, whether the motivation to focus on inequality is well-intentioned or a vote grabbing exercise is yet to be determined.

My issue with the inequality debate is that it is most often framed in terms of whether we should (a) increase the minimum wage, (b) legislate for a living wage, or (c) target assistance through wages subsidies like Working for Families. Not really root hacking stuff.

The presumption from those advocating increasing the minimum wage or having a living wage is that it will improve outcomes for the working poor.

Minimum or Living wage (MLW)[1] proponents also tend to argue that it is unfair that government subsidises businesses through the various welfare packages made available to low-income earners absolving businesses of the responsibility to pay fair wages to its workers.

In fact, I have made this argument myself and while I have revised my views on MLW strategies, I do think it has some merit. But whether MLW strategies address the issue of economic inequality is a different story.  In my view, part of the remedy to overcoming economic inequality is to implement a Universal Basic Income (UBI).[2]

I have posted this particular piece in my Reviving Georgism series because like many Georgists,[3] I think UBI and Land Value Tax (or land rent, land fees etc) are complementary policies for tackling inequality.

I do not necessarily oppose a MLW, in fact, a living wage is precisely what I advocate. I’m just not convinced that state regulating private enterprise to pay a particular minimum amount will necessarily have the effects intended. I think that UBI is a better goal because it benefits all society, not just one group, i.e. low skilled, low-income ‘workers’.

I also think we overlook that a MLW is a legal privilege that favours business and is therefore out of step with the objectives of the Unions and campaigns who typically lobby for MLW. I set out my argument below.

MLW as legal privilege

A MLW is a legal privilege weighted in favour of business because it removes the negotiating power of the worker to obtain a higher wage. It does this by legally entitling businesses to pay workers less (the minimum) than they might otherwise be willing to pay. Moreover, businesses are likely to choose to pay the legal minimum required simply because the law says they can.

Robert J Murphy adds another dimension where he argues that:

“Raising the minimum wage might represent a drastic harm to the most vulnerable and desperate workers…What could happen is that the higher wage would attract new workers into the labor pool, allowing firms to become pickier and, thus, to overlook the least-productive workers, who would remain unemployed or lose their jobs to more-highly-skilled workers”

I agree that MLW increases could represent a harm to low-income earners and I think that Murphy’s point reinforces my argument about privileging business. Additionally, MLW strategies might attract those who are unemployed but looking for work, to take on low skilled jobs in the interim, thereby potentially increasing unemployment for low skilled workers – an unintended consequence.

I’m not ignoring the fact that in non-minimum wage societies businesses can (and do) exploit workers.  My criticism is not that MLW strategies are inherently bad for all workers, indeed they probably do have some positive short-term effects for some but as Fred Foldvary points out [Henry] George would argue that minimum wage simply treats the effects [of poverty] not the symptoms, and that it distracts and appeases to avoid confronting the remedy.

Wages increase when rent decreases

George argues that ‘the line of rent is the necessary measure of the line of wages’.[4] He thinks that under free conditions, no-one would work for someone else if they could make the same amount working for themselves.[5] He argues its only when land is monopolised that individuals are forced to compete for work.[6]

George’s theory argues that wages are determined by what is left after rent is taken out.[7] Rent being that which is paid for using land.[8] He further argues that:[9]

“No matter how much they might actually produce, they receive only what they could get on land available without rent—on the least productive land in use. Landowners take everything else. Hence, no matter how much productive power increases, neither wages nor interest can rise if the increase in rent keeps pace with it”

He also proposes that:[10]

“Where land is subject to ownership and rent arises, wages will be fixed by what labor could secure from the highest natural opportunities open to it without paying rent (i.e., the margin of production). Where all natural opportunities are monopolized, wages may be forced by competition among laborers to the minimum at which they will consent to reproduce. Clearly, the margin cannot fall below the point of survival”

At first glance, this quote seems to support having a MLW, but in context George would say MLW is not conducive to solving inequality – it simply ‘appeases’ the workers to avoid dealing with the free lunch income enjoyed by land owners at the expense of workers who are forced to compete for a minimum wage. Noting, a minimum wage could never be lower than the margin or landowners would risk an uprising that could threaten their privilege. So even without a MLW setting, landowners will always have a minimum at which they can charge rent, and businesses would have a minimum at which workers would consent to work or they risk workplace strikes.

On this basis, I think a MLW plays right into the hands of the landowners and businesses to the detriment of the most vulnerable members of our society because it provides a sense of certainty around rents i.e. a MLW provides a legally specified minimum wage that must be paid to workers (by businesses)  on which land owners can base their rents.

Importantly, as Nate Blair points out minimum wages in the long-run can only shift economic rent to different locations or decrease aggregate wages. And while a minimum wage can benefit labour in the short-run, including labourers who also happen to be landlords,  the long term impact on real wages is negligible.

Arguably, UBI is no different than MLW because it too provides everyone with a specified minimum amount of income. However, this is why I think in order for UBI to be effective it must be accompanied by a LVT and because it focuses on long term outcomes.

Another benefit of UBI is that it provides a mechanism for recognising and rewarding our currently economically invisible members i.e. those who carry out valuable but unpaid work such as stay at home parents, or volunteers.

The UBI and LVT combination also provides a foundation for setting up a participatory democracy framework which would enable individuals to voluntarily take part in public decision-making forums (e.g. multi-body sortition etc) without the stress of having no income. But that is a discussion for another post.

To conclude, if the politicians aren’t going to address the root of inequality by looking at tax evolution and a UBI, then we deserve an answer as to why. This is what I believe we ought to challenge our politicians on this year to determine if their policies are simply vote grabbing or genuine. How we decide the amount, or the age, or the frequency at which individuals receive a UBI (or the rate or measure for determining LVT) is beyond the scope of this particular post but I think what we should be focusing on (as the title of this post suggests), is hacking at the roots instead of simply wriggling the branches of the failed system we have inherited.


Its been brought to my attention that I have probably been a bit presumptuous in assuming that readers would take into account the current wage subsidies and welfare packages already available in NZ.

Its important because this is the context within which I base my argument. Here are a few sites to help get your head around NZ minimum wage and the government transfers available:

In NZ there are two predominant broad views about how to improve poverty. The first broadly subscribes to the Scandinavian model – progressive taxation and increasing the top marginal rate to increase revenue to provide free core public services. Critics of the welfare system and of those advocating for a Scandinavian model in NZ argue that welfare creates dependency and this dependency causes the poverty and wage gaps we see in our country.  The critics are the second group who typically subscribe to the neoliberal model – lower taxes, privatisation, user pays services, the free market. Scandinavian model advocates usually argue that if the wealthy paid more taxes on their productive incomes that we could afford to provide core public services to those most in need.

There is a strong tension between these two groups. As a relatively recent subscriber to Georgism, I think that both models are flawed because unlike Georgism, they ignore the role that speculative behaviour plays in creating inequalities.

In this post, I tried to clarify that I didn’t think a MLW was inherently bad, just that UBI with LVT was better overall.

The reason most often cited for pursuing a MW is ‘fair pay for a fair days work’ and I agree with the sentiment. However, I don’t think ‘fair pay’ and ‘minimum wage’ are the same, but this is how MW proponents often frame their arguments.

In fact, MW’s often aren’t ‘fair’ for the work carried out. If they were then government transfers i.e wage subsidies wouldn’t be necessary. No matter how little a worker is paid by their employer, the wage subsidies supplement those incomes enough so that supplemented income makes working more attractive than just receiving jobseeker support (a welfare payment).

So if we had no MW (in NZ), and some workers were to receive less from an employer than they might currently get those low-income earners would have their incomes supplemented by wage subsidies.

Additionally, no business could pay below the maximum someone could get on welfare because most workers would choose not to work for less than what they could get for not working. This would apply in any country who has a welfare system. In effect, even if there was no legally specified MW there is actually already a minimum in place i.e. more than a worker could receive as their maximum on welfare. Admittedly, in NZ this rate would probably change depending on the region a person lives, because the accommodation supplement is location based.

Aside from the arguments set out in this post, MW also has the effect of forcing workers to compete for jobs, which gives business the upper hand to choose the person willing to accept the least amount in wages i.e. the minimum legal amount.

I reiterate, I don’t disagree that MW’s can have short term benefits. However, I think that focusing on MLW prolongs getting to the real remedy because it appeases workers, which means the more vulnerable members of our society – those who are unable to work for whatever reason, only receive welfare payments, which are necessarily less than those who earn any productive wage with additional government transfers (wage subsidies). A UBI and LVT combo would iron out this inequality and ensure even those who were unable to work had access to a living wage, not a bare minimum.

[1] For ease of reference, I use MLW to include those who advocate:

  1. a minimum wage; and or
  2. increasing the minimum wage; and or
  3. a living wage.

[2] Others refer to this is Guaranteed Minimum Income or Guaranteed Basic Income.

[3] I have resolved to use the term ‘Georgism’ (as the title of each post suggests) to reinvigorate interest in Henry George’s economic theory. However, in doing so I think I may have inadvertently neglected the preferences of some who prefer ‘Geoism’ and others who reject describing themselves under an ‘-ism’, such as Martin Adam’s who writes at Land, A Humaniteer Project. Adam’s proposes that while Henry George’s economic theory is traditionally understood as Georgism, a more accurate term is ‘Geoism’ because it ‘contains the prefix Geo, from the Greek word γαια, meaning ground or earth’ and because George’s philosophy advocates the sharing of nature. Please note that I use the term ‘Georgism’ broadly to include any persons who share in advocating the fundamentals of George’s economic theory.

[4] Henry George and B. Drake (ed.) Progress and Poverty (2006, Robert Schalkenbach Foundation, New York) available online: http://www.henrygeorge.org/pdfs/PandP_Drake.pdf  at 117.

[5] Ibid at 116.

[6] Ibid.

[7] Ibid at 93.

[8] Ibid at 89.

[9] Ibid at 93.

[10] Ibid at 116.

Credit for the title of this post belongs to Adam John Monroe

Thanks to all those in the LVT Facebook group that helped me get my head around this and directed me to relevant chapters!

Connected Capitalism?

In the first week of 2013 I decided to begin the year by reading a book that promotes capitalism. Why? Because my goal this year is to read outside my comfort zone. 

The book of choice:  Neville Isdell & David Beasley “Inside Coca Cola: A CEO’s Life Story of Building the World’s Most Popular Brand” (2011, St Martins Press, New York).

Why this book? Well, last year my sister and I argued about the benefits and problems of capitalism which in itself is not unusual because we both agree to disagree about most things political especially when it comes to money and society. Anyhow, we were discussing how we had quite polar opposite views and ended up in a slightly heated discussion about Coca Cola (Coke).

Prior to this particular discussion I had watched a documentary on the depletion of water tables in rural India that the local communities blamed on the production of Coke in their area. However, my sister had just read the book cited above. She insisted I read the book before bagging Coke. I was at her house just a few days ago, saw the book in a pile and took it as my holiday reading. Its at least an interesting perspective. 

In this book, Isdell (former CEO of Coca Cola) argues that there was no proof that Coke created the depletion of the water tables in India and that the report he’d read indicated that depletion was the result of overuse by farmers in these areas and that the water tables have continued to decline at the same rate since Coke has withdrawn from the area. What Isdell does not say is – who funded the report, how were the water tables measured before and after Coke operated in the region, how was water use by farmers measured, what was the amount of water required to sustain the Coke plant to name a few questions. 

Given he states he has an explicit bias to Coke, I am still not willing to take his word for it. 

Additionally, he promotes Coke as a moral corporate citizen. Whatever that means. In his mind, it appears to mean that certain percentage of Coke’s profits are redistributed to the communities within which Coke operates. I was amused to see him argue (and to be fair, he argued well, even if I do disagree), that spending $25 million building a Coke bottling factory in Afghanistan was more beneficial to the community than building a Hospital.  His reasons were simply that the Coke bottling plant would provide 350 jobs which meant the government could collect employee and company taxes to build and sustain their own Hospital and employees could afford to pay for medical treatment. So his argument is that 350 employees would sustain the building and operation costs of a Hospital in Afghanistan so that they could then pay to use the services they have already subsidised through their taxes? Oh, right. 

Moreover, introducing an unnecessary product into a destabilised country claiming some moral victory when this was simply for profitability and acquisition of majority market share in Afghanistan is not responsible. What about the waste caused by the production of coke (including the plastics in which the drinks are sold), the extraction of resources to develop the technology used to make the product saleable, the lack of health benefits to a country that is suffering…I could go on. 

But Isdell claims that this is necessary to alleviate poverty. No. Building Coke bottling operations in developing countries is not in the best interest of the community, no matter which way you view it. It creates more problems than it solves. It uses precious water resources in these countries to make an inferior product and then charges those communities for the consumption of the inferior product even though the superior product – water, is or at least ought to be freely available. 

Isdell calls this ‘connected capitalism’ – the partnership between corporations, NGO’s and governments who work together to create profits in order to resolve poverty. There already exists terms for this kind of partnership – ‘Crony Capitalism’ and ‘Fascism’. Business and government should never be in partnership with each other since history tells us it leads to bribery, corruption and the implementation of the Police state as corporations force governments to enact laws that protect their business interests. It creates class divisions and ensures that poverty always remains to legitimise corporate profit making. 

Poverty is the result of inequality

Okay blog readers, brief plug first: if any of you do not watch or have not heard of Native Affairs, highly recommended viewing. Mondays 08:30pm on Maori TV. It’s a current affairs show – the best, to be honest.  This week, the main topic was poverty, specifically in relation to living conditions.  You can watch past episodes online, just click on this link: http://www.maoritelevision.com/default.aspx?tabid=636&pid=212.

The definition of poverty differs according to whose doing the measuring. Typically, in NZ we measure relative poverty, simply meaning that we measure according to the ‘minimum level of income deemed necessary to achieve an adequate standard of living’. We can therefore see that poverty derives from the inequality in respect of  the distribution of incomes. So while there are many people out there proffering solutions such as community gardens to feed the poor or housing projects to shelter them, within a monetary economic system, the only way of restoring equality and eliminating poverty is through the redistribution of wealth.

But what government is willing to advocate for that?

I acknowledge that there are many groups out there trying to ‘fix’ poverty or individuals wanting to ‘fix’ it. But only the government is in a position to make the changes necessary. The government must look at income distribution and tax if they have any real intent to solve poverty in NZ. (see link at the bottom of the page for an interesting blog on tax)

Let us look at the minimum wage, because it is not just beneficiaries living in poverty. The argument is that we cannot raise the minimum wage because of the adverse effect it would have on small business. Well, while we are busy protecting small businesses from going bust by increasing the minimum wage, we are also subsidising medium and large corporations who pay many of their employee’s minimum wages and punishing those who are working for crumbs. Low-income earners are entitled to claim subsidies such as accommodation supplements, working for family tax credits and food vouchers. In an attempt to blind the public to who the taxpayer is really subsidising, the government posit these social security schemes as being benefits to our low-income earners and claim this as some great deed that we as taxpayers are subsidising the incomes of low wage employee’s. Bullshit. We are subsidising businesses so that they can pay the employee less than their labour is worth so that they can make a bigger profit. Taxpayers are doing no more than topping up the wages of low income earners because the government privileges businesses over people. As a result, the government cut further spending in the social services (including health and education) because of the allocation of our taxes to subsidise businesses who cry wolf at the thought of paying a living wage to an employee for their labour. Interestingly, these business owners are usually the same people harping on about individual responsibility, welfare statism and a free market even though they are products of the same labels they use to chastise the poor.  

So my point is, while community gardens and housing projects will feed the poor and provide shelter, they do not address the inequality issue. Redistribution of wealth will help solve the inequality issue, but land ownership and an insistence on private ownership of land, will always ensure that inequality prevails. Think about it – we as human beings are always occupying a physical space. Yet, every space we occupy has some rights, interests or obligations attached to it. We cannot simply choose to opt out of society – because even if we did, someone or some entity has rights and interests in every inch of the land. So if we wanted to just go to sleep somewhere either local government would prevent us from doing so on council owned land, DOC would prevent us from doing so on conservation land, homeowners, renters and business owners would prevent us from doing so on their privately owned land. Yet we must sleep. In commodifying land, we have taken out of the commons a resource necessary for all land dwelling species to survive. Successive governments have arbitrarily determined the boundaries and the rights and interests that can be attached to land notwithstanding that land is not a manufactured good whose origin can be traced to a particular person. Additionally, land ownership has forced people to participate in a society that they were contingently born into even if that means participating to the detriment of their own well-being. 

Highly recommended read on NZ tax system as regressive not progressive: http://pantograph-punch.com/from-each-according-to-his-need-how-our-tax-system-punishes-the-poor/ 

Also checkout: http://www.cpag.org.nz  there are some great resources on this site.

Food in schools

This week the Labour Party announced that it would be supporting the provision of food in low decile schools, in a way coat tailing on the election policy of the Mana Party.
This has spawned a lot of debate between those who think it promotes a lack of parental responsibility and those who think no child should ever go hungry, irrespective of their background.  
The argument behind providing food in schools is that it is estimated around 270,000 children are turning up to school without having had breakfast and without lunch. In a country that prides itself on fair equality of opportunity, the figure is astounding. Some will argue that the State has a duty to ensure that its citizens, especially the children, are not deprived of food. Critics of that argument suggest that it is the role of parents to provide food for their children and not the role of the State. 
So who should be responsible for feeding children during school hours?
Matt Nolan, an economist, who writes on the TVHE blog, suggests that as children are forced to be in an institution for most of the day, we ought to make sure that the institution provides the services required. His baseline for his argument is as follows: 
“We need to think about primary and secondary school education more clearly to get a good idea about the policy of free lunches.  Why do we provide this sort of education, and what does public provision achieve?  We provide this type of education to ensure there is equality of opportunity for individuals in society.  On that note, having shared lunches at school ensures the same thing – we know that appropriate nutrition at a young age is essential for the physical and mental development of an individual.  We know that, especially in low decile schools, there is a definite “underinvestment” in this attribute for kids”

see: http://www.tvhe.co.nz/2012/09/10/free-food-in-schools-equality-of-opportunity/

I agree with this argument. The State specifies certain learning outcomes and in order to achieve those outcomes, every child needs to have the same starting point. While food is not the only factor influencing how a child learns, it is certainly a key factor for ensuring they have the energy to learn.
My issue with the policy proposed by Labour is that it does not go far enough. My view is that lunches provided by the State should be provided in all public and integrated schools. Without detracting from the issue of child poverty, my concern is that while some parents can afford to send their children to school with lunch, are they sending them with the appropriate food? Children’s lunchboxes are often packed with sugar.  The impact of sugar on a child’s learning, in my view, has an effect similar to a child who has little to no lunch. When a child comes crashing down off the sugar, they are lethargic and lack the energy required to learn. It is common knowledge that in many Scandinavian countries, food in schools is standard practice, and this correlates to the relatively good health outcomes in those countries as well. Therefore, by providing lunches in all state funded schools, we could address the correlative issues of hunger and health.
Criticisms that I have heard or read about suggest that feeding children in schools does nothing to address parental responsibility. The assumption is that parents will get lazy and rely on the State to feed their child or children. That attitude is the result of a punitive mind and a lack of compassion through an inability to understand the complexity of the issues faced by parents raising children in poverty. Additionally, they label parents who are unable to feed their children as lazy, useless and negligent, as well as alcoholics, drug addicts, smokers, gamblers and so on. These “labels” do not belong to poor parents. Wealthy parents can also be lazy, useless, negligent, alcoholics. Drug addicts, smokers etc.  My point is that publicising these attitudes affects children and has a huge impact on their confidence. 
When I was at primary school and my mother was on a benefit, if we had no food for lunch, I would pretend I was sick so I didn’t have to go to school, or at lunchtime I would go wait down the road outside the school grounds and tell my friends I was waiting for my lunch to be dropped off, or I would go hide in the cloak bay until the lunch bell rang and everyone had finished eating. Children feel the shame of their parents not being able to feed them and that shame comes from people characterising poor parents according to the labels mentioned above. 
Moving on, with all the socio-economic indicators aside, no parent wants to be in a situation where they are unable to provide lunch for their child or children at school. In fact, I would go as far as to say, that being unable to provide such necessities is likely to be a huge factor exacerbating the stresses that cause the above-mentioned problems. 
Punitive measures suggested by the critics of state funded lunches for children, would rather have poor parents criminalised for not providing lunch for their children or stopping their benefit. My view is that by addressing child poverty through penalising parents is counterproductive. Such penalties add further stress to these families, and stress does not make for good outcomes. 
Providing food in schools as a standard practice is more a rehabilitative approach. It signals to poorer families that the State will take care of the child at school and provide all that is necessary for that child during their time in the school and encourages the parents to take responsibility while the child or children are in the home. Critics will argue that this is highly idealistic. However, if the government makes clear that the raising of the child is a shared responsibility, then the parents can focus on ensuring that they can provide at the least the necessities at home removing the stress of wondering how they are going to provide those necessities for the child at school. The stress is diminished through knowing the State is supporting you, and through that co-operation, parents may start to see hope in their future and in their children’s future.  I am not denying that some parents may still take advantage of the situation, but children should not bear the penalty of the choices made by their parents.