The Green Party is backing Labour's proposal to provide free food to all kids at low-decile schools, and has slammed the government over its refusal to consider the idea.
Labour leader David Shearer gave his first major policy speech on Sunday, announcing that if it became the government, his party would partner with community and voluntary organisations to provide free food to each of the country's 650 decile 1-3 primary and intermediate schools, with a total of 119,135 pupils.
"I hear people argue that this is the responsibility of parents. We can debate that endlessly but it won't change this reality: tomorrow morning kids will still turn up to school hungry," he said.
However, Prime Minister John Key dismissed the idea, telling media in Vladivostok, where he attended the APEC conference, that "not every school wants every child to be provided a lunch".
"There are many families that can provide those lunches," he said.
That's drawn criticism from the Green Party, whose co-leader Metiria Turei says Mr Key is out of touch with the facts and "against every good idea to decrease child poverty".
"Food in schools is needed. According to Kidscan, one in 11 kids in the four lowest deciles are demonstrably hungry at school, and a Ministry of Health survey found that 20.1 per cent of New Zealand households with school-age children did not have enough food for active and health living," she said.
Education Minister Hekia Parata told Radio New Zealand the government is already doing enough to help families feed their kids.
She also rejected Mr Shearer's proposal to allow schools to opt out of controversial national standards assessments, saying she does not believe they will want to do so.
"You will find across the country that schools are talking about the fact that they are having very good quality educational discussions as a result of national standards."
Mr Shearer also announced proposals to extend reading recovery to all schools and develop a maths recovery programme.