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Free lunches

That photo last week of the government’s free lunch at Kaitaia Primary School was heartbreaking.

It was half-a-cup of canned spaghetti in a polystyrene box with a little grated cheese on top. It was cold. It was two hours late.

The kids at Kaitaia Primary were supposed to eat that. And be grateful.

In a half-decent society those responsible would be fired from the top down. That’s child abuse.

I am powerless. I can’t fix it. And so I turned my rage into an educational opportunity. "Eww! That's disgusting!" was my kids’ response.

I took them to McDonalds. Over a cheese burger I asked them the difference.

The ten year old knew. Profit. If McDonald's doesn't provide what you want, they go bust. They certainly wouldn’t survive dishing out cold spaghetti two hours late. Only the government can get away with that.

And why?

Oh Government doesn’t have to earn your money. It just takes it. Or prints it -- which is the same thing.

So the government bullies the money out of you? Yes. You have no choice.

What about the sourdough Dad bakes? Oh you do that because you love us.

And there you have the three reasons people help others: they’re bullied, they’re paid, or they love.

Love is powerful but doesn’t reach far. My love doesn’t make it down the street. I wouldn’t make lunch for every kid in the street. And nor clearly does anyone else.

But profit is powerful: it reaches right around the world and back again. The people and businesses involved in making the cheeseburgers we enjoyed are all over the world and are unknowable. Most don’t even know they’re in the cheeseburger business. Think of the person making the sandwiches at the camp mining the ore needed for the circuit boards that power the lighting at McDonalds. They’re involved in making the cheeseburger we enjoyed and they don’t even know it.

They don’t do it for their love of us. They do it because they love their family. That’s the power of profit and prices.

I doubt the Kaitaia kids received the lesson: their principal Mr Brendon Morrissey called the late lunch a "hiccup". All they got out of it was a cold rubbish lunch two hours late.

It was the same for me at school. We had free government milk that was always warm and often sour. We tipped it down the drain. It was only years later that I learnt why no one bothered to keep the milk cool.

My kids know why now. They are well ahead of me. They are ahead of the government. It’s not just that they are smart. They have had the help of the Tuttle Twins!

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