Merivale School was full of happy smiles and full bellies after children were treated to their first free lunch.

As reported in the Bay of Plenty Times last Tuesday, Gate Pa's Garrath Stoddart decided to make children at Merivale School a hot lunch three times a week after hearing about Te Puke woman Tracey Wallace-Hutchins taking an extra packed lunch box to her child's school for children who arrived at school without lunch.

When I said it is happening three times a week for the whole term, there were big cheers.


She planned to cook three large stockpots of healthy, warm food three times a week for the school.

She sought funding from local businesses and both Tauranga and Fraser Cove Countdown offered to give Mrs Stoddart $50 towards food supplies. Mad Butcher Tauranga has also come to the party with $50 a week.


Yesterday was the first day back at school after the Term 2 holidays and the first day Mrs Stoddart provided lunch.

About 75 pupils gathered on the deck outside a classroom block at lunchtime and were each handed a colourful plastic bowl filled with creamy pasta, mince and vegetables.

Mrs Stoddart was pleased to see the children enjoying the meal.

"I think it went really well. They were all very polite and well-behaved, they're a bunch of nice children."

Mrs Stoddart's sponsorship for cooking the meals covers the whole of Term 3 and she will see what happens from there.

Friends Tyler-Rose Rolleston, 11, and Waiata-Aroha Hemopo, 10, were both happy with their lunch, which they described as delicious and yum.

Merivale principal Jan Tinetti said the lunch was fantastic and the children loved it.

"I can't wait to do it again. They really enjoyed it. Today being the first day back at school, we didn't have the chance to give them any warning so it was totally fresh for them.

"Some of them were asking when they could get it again. When I said Wednesday, they were very excited. When I said it is happening three times a week for the whole term, there were big cheers, so it was a really exciting lunch for them."