Free lunch programme launched

Issue: Volume 98, Number 16

Posted: 12 September 2019
Reference #: 1H9yZ4

Free healthy lunches in schools have been given the thumbs up by students and parents in Rotorua.

The announcement of the free school lunch programme and meeting Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern brought a broad smile to this student's face.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced the government’s free lunch programme at Kaitao Intermediate in Rotorua recently as part of the Child and Youth Wellbeing Strategy. 

One parent, who had travelled from Tokoroa to the launch, said, “It’s about time. The link between learning and having a full puku is a no-brainer. We should be able to provide the basic necessities, but the reality is that some families can’t.”

Students shared that sentiment, many saying that free lunches would help many of their mates who go to school hungry. 

“No one wants to say they don’t have lunch, but it’s true, some don’t. I think it’s good that now we’ll all have something to eat.”

Households struggling

Around one in five children in New Zealand live in households that struggle to put enough good-quality food on the table. Many families, even with both parents working, struggle to meet everyday needs like food, rent, clothing, heating, education and sports costs, transport, and doing things that others take for granted.

Thirty schools in the Bay of Plenty and Hawke’s Bay/Tairāwhiti will be invited to take part in the programme, which will offer a free, healthy school lunch to all Year 1-8 students.

More schools added

From term 2, 2020, the programme will be extended to selected schools in Otago/ Southland. The programme will reach around 21,000 students in about 120 schools and kura by the beginning of 2021. 

Those invited into the programme will be a mix of schools and kura in urban, rural and isolated locations with high levels of disadvantage.

The scope of the programme is limited, to give time to assess what’s involved in providing free lunches in different school types, locations, and facilities. The Ministry will evaluate the results before making decisions about the programme beyond 2021.

The government has allocated just under $45 million for the two-year programme. 

The Ministry of Education will soon begin discussions with the first schools to be offered the programme. Schools that accept the lunches programme will then be named.    

Opportunities for other providers

Some existing organisations already provide lunches to students. This programme may create opportunities for them to adapt or extend their current operations, either within the same schools, or in other schools. It may also create opportunities for new food providers to work with schools.  

The free healthy lunches programme is the latest of more than 75 initiatives in the Programme of Action that sits alongside the Child and Youth Wellbeing Strategy.

BY Education Gazette editors
Education Gazette | Tukutuku Kōrero,

Posted: 11:23 am, 12 September 2019

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