A Bay school says it sells pies, sausage rolls, American hot dogs and chicken nugget rolls because those are the foods students want and it makes financial sense to provide them.
Demand for these foods was high at Otumoetai Intermediate and if the school did not offer them students would go elsewhere and take profits away from the school, said deputy principal John Stanley.
"There is a demand but there's also an economic factor to it. We want to be able to provide this service to the school community ... and we want to be able to provide a choice."
A snapshot survey of five primary and intermediate schools across the Western Bay of Plenty revealed that four sold pies at their school canteen, three sold hot dogs, three sold pizza bread and two sold burgers.
All five schools sold sandwiches. Fizzy drinks were off the menu.
Mr Stanley said students continued to gobble down pies and other unhealthy foods because they were "more affordable" and the school encouraged children to make "informed decisions" about their food choices.
Local dietician Fiona Boyle said it was "a sad reality" that healthier foods tended to be more expensive than more processed foods and some children's food choices were limited by cost.
"I would love to see healthy foods being the only option on school lunches ... because the healthier options are full of nutrients that sustain the body for longer," she said.
"In saying that, if a child is hungry, having something in their tummy is better than nothing."
An ideal school lunch would include protein (meat, fish, cheese, egg), carbohydrate (bread, wrap, rice, pasta) and fruit and vegetables.
Canteen staff at Tauranga Intermediate made pies and baked goods daily to keep products healthier, canteen manager Therese Comber said. In her 21 years running the canteen, she noticed families now had less money to spend on children's lunches.
Tauranga Intermediate and Golden Sands school were the only schools in the survey that sold fruit. Mrs Boyle said it was encouraging to see some schools offer healthy alternatives to cakes and cream donuts.
Omanu school sells sushi once a week and Tauriko school students can choose Subway on Mondays and Tuesdays.
School lunches were no longer an option at Arataki or Selwyn Ridge schools. Both principals said it was not worth their while.
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