As many as 2000 local students and a well known Te Puke charity will benefit from the Government's Lunches in Schools programme.
Seven local schools were selected to be part of the pilot programme, which will see all students provided with a free lunch. They are Te Puke Primary, Intermediate and High Schools, Rangiuru, Maketū and Pukehina Schools and Te Kura Kaupapa Māori o Te Matai.
All except Te Matai opted to work together and have contracted The Daily to provide the lunches.
Te Puke High School principal Alan Liddle says it is an exciting prospect to be able to offer all students a healthy lunch every day.
''Schools know that parents want to provide their children with healthy lunches,'' he says.''Unfortunately, through no fault of their own, parents and caregivers can struggle to do this. This has been made more difficult during the Covid-19 pandemic where many families are struggling financially.''
The schools' decision to work together has been ''a really good move'', says Alan, with the six schools able to benefit from economies of scale and to jointly choose where the contract would go.
Tenders went to the Ministry of Education, where a short list was drawn up for the schools to make a final selection. The tenders had a wide geographical spread.
''One of the key things we were focused on was supporting local and we actually came down to two in the end that we interviewed and out of that we chose The Daily.
''They are local, they are for the community and not-for-profit, so basically everything that they could do would benefit the community. They've also got a track record with The Daily Cafe and how that's contributing to the community, and it would also help employ
While the programme is initially for five terms, starting this term, it won't be providing meals for all students until next year.
''Whoever we were going to chose, we would do it in a way that we would do it bit by bit, so the smaller schools would come in first and they will test out the logistics of how is going to work.
''For us as the biggest school involved, I've always said that potentially we'd start at the beginning of next year. There will be some trialling this term at the school, but we'll all be on board at the beginning of next year.''
The intention at the high school is for students to eat their meals during pastoral time just before the lunch break.
''Students will actually come together with their small group leader and they'll have lunch together so it's going to be more meaningful than just having food, it's going to be about eating together.''
The Daily trustee Chrissi Robinson says the trust is ''super pleased'' to be able to secure the contract, with meals initially to be prepared at a kitchen at the high school.
''The schools have been incredible and very generous in their being willing to time it to allow us to get up and running.''
She says the offer of somewhere to work from initially was amazing.
''We are all passionate about it together.''
The trust received a lot of encouragement to bid for the contract.
General manager Clint Reha says getting the contract is part of working towards the trust's vision of having everybody in Te Puke connected and thriving.
It is also likely job numbers will increase as the programme is rolled out.
''The reality is there's so many kids in the community that don't have food and we are blessed to be part of that solution,'' he says.
Chrissi says her hope is that the community will partner with the trust to see every child in Te Puke fed at lunchtime.
Te Kura Kaupapa Māori o Te Matai principal Angie Wihapi says the school decided to provide the meals itself to build on what was already being done.
''It meant we could start serving up on day one,'' she says. ''We have been feeding our tamariki at least once per week for a number of years now so we knew how it would look for us.
''The only difference is that the Government is paying for everything now and we now have a more balanced menu.''