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Free lunches welcomed by schools2 min read

Mar 3, 2021 2 min

Free lunches welcomed by schools2 min read

Reading Time: 2 minutes

Students at two local schools are receiving free lunches, thanks to the government-funded Lunches in Schools programme, Ka Ora, Ka Ako.

Since its launch in 2019, the school lunch initiative has been providing free and healthy lunches to thousands of children throughout the country. Royal Oak Intermediate School (ROI) has been added to the lunch run for the year, alongside Onehunga High School, Te Papapa Primary School and St Joseph’s School.

Schools can decide whether to deliver lunches themselves, or outsource to an external supplier, and all suppliers are required to meet New Zealand food safety standards. Every meal caters for the diet, health and cultural needs of students, while encouraging healthy eating and good habits.

ROI principal, Tony Coughlan, is very happy to be part of the pilot programme for 2021. “We’re extremely grateful to be a part of the initiative, as it’s one less worry for us as educators. We’re thankful for the support we already receive from Fonterra and KidsCan – but this is awesome. The free lunches will alleviate [the financial burden on] some of our families and give them a little bit extra in their household budget.”

The lunches are offered to every student, so there is no stigma in being singled out.  The regular decile system is not used as a measure of need; instead, schools are chosen using the Ministry of Education’s Equity Index, which gives better insights into each school’s specific needs.

“We’re still ironing out a few wrinkles, as it’s early days, but so far so good. We’ve heard a lot of great things from other schools, so we‘re looking forward to monitoring its progress throughout the year. Our kids are getting fed, and that’s the main thing,” says Tony.

The initiative will run until the end of 2021 and evaluated throughout the year. This will include feedback about the food, how it is delivered, and any impact it may have on a student’s learning, achievements and overall wellbeing. The data will help to decide whether to continue beyond 2021, and it may assist with plans towards an ongoing programme.

The Government promised to spend $220 million on the programme, and 2021 will see them cater to 120 schools and 200,000 students by the end of the year.

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