Taita College students are being provided with free, healthy lunches as part of a programme that could one day be rolled out across New Zealand.
Libelle Group, an Auckland-based school food and drink provider, is running a pilot programme providing sandwiches or a hot meal, fruit, muffin, yoghurt or milk at the Lower Hutt school.
Principal Karen Morgan said the offer from chief executive Johannes Tietze was simply too good to turn down.
He was initially funding it himself, at a cost of $450,000 a annum but was looking for partners and community support.
Morgan said the evidence was overwhelming that when children eat healthy, nutritional food they performed better at school.
The scheme was not about helping a low decile school where children were hungry but a positive project that would remove one of the barriers to children doing their best at school, she said.
Libelle was already running the school’s canteen when Morgan approached the regional manager looking to see how the quality of the food could be improved.
Tietze then came back with the offer of free lunches for all 400 students.
Students use a card to order and that data can be used to check if eating a healthy lunch equates to better results, improved behaviour and attendance, she said.
Head Boy Jaxson Tautala-Hanita said he was certain it would lead to improved academic results.
Students would be more engaged in the afternoon and able to focus on learning, he said.
Funding it himself was “tricky” and Tietze was looking for businessess, individuals, councils and government agencies to help.
Each meal costs $6 and he believed that feeding children was a community responsibility.
If every business paid $1 a day that would feed 200,0000 children nationally, he said.
He chose Taita as a pilot so the data it collected on the impact of the programme on learning and attendance could be measured and used to attract sponsors.
The ultimate aim was to roll out a national texting service where Work and Income and other social agencies could send a text that would result in a student who needed lunch getting one at their school.
Morgan said it frustrated her to see corporations spend money on the Americas Cup when there were children going to school hungry.
“I do not believe there should be anyone hungry in New Zealand. If we want to build a nation of really well prepared, healthy, holistic young people, we need to build better communities.”