Free school lunches on the way for Coroglen School

27 Apr 2021

Kai time will look a little different at Coroglen School from the start of next term with all 30 students set to receive a free lunch every day courtesy of a national programme to support learning through healthy, nutritious food.

Coroglen will become the sixth school in the Thames-Coromandel District to join the Ka Ora Ka Ako scheme which is funded through the government’s Child and Youth Wellbeing Strategy.

School principal, Jean Saunders, says, as of March this year, over eight million free lunches had been served in 542 schools to more than 132,600 learners. Coroglen will be one of the 960 schools due to be part of the programme by the end of this year. “The students are enthusiastic about it,” Jean says. “There is certainly a novelty about the idea of seeing what they will get every day. Our parents are also very happy with the initiative. It isn’t compulsory and any parents who wishes to can still send a homemade lunch with their child.”

Jean says while schools had the option of preparing the meals in-house or outsourcing, limited space and facilities at Coroglen School meant an external supplier was the only practical option. “We are delighted that New World Whitianga have agreed to be our supplier,” she says. “It really is quite a challenge for them and given the dollar value involved, there certainly isn’t a huge amount in it for them financially, so they are really just doing it to support us and we a very grateful that they have come on board.”

As well as meeting the $5 per serving budget, lunches must meet a range of nutritional guidelines and cater for specific dietary needs. “It has been quite a process of putting together menus that don’t just meet all the requirements but that students will enjoy and want to eat,” Jean says. “We also had other considerations that were important to our school such as ensuring the packaging was compostable or recyclable as part of our environmental commitments, and New World have been fantastic in working through all that with us.

“We will also be monitoring the amount of food that is being supplied to ensure we do not have wastage. Students will be able to take any leftover food home to share with other whanau.”

The Ka Ora Ka Ako scheme is a response to inequitable outcomes in education across New Zealand, with food and nutrition identified as one of the causes. Evidence shows regular, nutritious food is vital for children’s physical, mental and educational development. It affects their ability to focus, concentrate and learn.

“We just see this as a good way for us to further support our students and whanau,” Jean says. “It also provides a real focus for learning for the children, not just about healthy eating, but also where their food comes from.”

With the lunches set to be rolled out from the first day of term, Jean is optimistic but also practical. “We are suggesting that parents still send a lunch for that first day, just in case things don’t quite go to plan,” she says. “I’m sure there will be great excitement among the students and hopefully they’ll be open to trying some new things.”

Pictured: Coroglen School students will be enjoying a free school lunch every day from next term.