Every day in New Zealand, thousands of children go to school lacking one or more basic necessities including food, shoes or a raincoat. ASB is helping to change this by partnering with KidsCan on its hot meals programme, and volunteering at least 5,000 hours each year to the charity as part of its new volunteering policy.
From July this year, every ASB staff member will have a day and a half, or 12 hours, annually of paid leave to volunteer for charities that are helping to protect the next generation of New Zealanders. ASB has committed 5,000 of these hours to KidsCan, with hundreds of staff already rolling up their sleeves to dish up hot meals and hand out shoes and raincoats at low-decile schools and early childhood centres across the country.
ASB chief executive Vittoria Shortt says the volunteering policy is about giving to local communities and helping all New Zealanders to progress.
"ASB has always supported local communities, from partnering with organisations like St John and Starship through to helping with cook nights and fundraising for Ronald McDonald House New Zealand. Our volunteering policy just adds to this, and means our staff can choose to give their time to something that resonates with them," Shortt says.
"Our focus at ASB is accelerating financial progress for all New Zealanders, and that starts from a young age with children getting a good education at school. Every child deserves to go to school warm, dry and well-fed so they can make the most of the opportunities they have," says Shortt.
"A country like New Zealand shouldn't be one where our kids are going to school hungry or without these basic necessities, and we're proud to be able to say we're helping to change that," says Shortt.
KidsCan currently supports 740 low-decile schools and 25 early childhood centres. The partnership with ASB will mean more KidsCan partner schools will be able to receive hot lunches. KidsCan chief executive Julie Chapman says demand for hot lunches is increasing, with 424,546 servings of soups, curries and pasta distributed this year.
In a recent survey by KidsCan, teachers said that KidsCan's hot meals at lunchtime - including soups, butter chicken, and pasta - were making a big difference to children struggling in cold weather.
"Winter is a really miserable time for children living in poverty," says Chapman.
"For some, a hot meal has become a luxury. Teachers are telling us children are being kept home from school when there's no food for lunch or turning up with nothing. So, kids are really grateful for a warm meal on a freezing cold day," says Chapman.
The support from ASB goes a long way to helping children living in poverty in New Zealand says Chapman, adding that it was great to have support from one of the country's leading financial institutions.
"It's more than just the fundraising, it's staff being on the ground helping with our distribution of food and health items, going to schools and helping children with school projects and anything else the schools might need a hand with.
"We'd love more businesses to follow ASB's example. Child poverty is everyone's problem - and the best way to break the cycle is with education. Let's make sure every Kiwi kid can focus on learning, not how hungry or cold they are," says Chapman.
KidsCan is fueling on average 31,000 children a week with hot meals, baked beans, bread, spreads, fruit, yoghurt, supergrain bars and scroggin. More than 31,700 raincoats and 17,400 pairs of shoes have been handed out so far this year.