Flaxmere Primary School pupils didn't just get a free lunch on Thursday, they got a free lunch with the Prime Minister.

On a charm offensive over her free school lunch programme, PM Jacinda Ardern served up a menu of chicken, corn chips, pasta salad and vegetables, flanked by Education Minister Chris Hipkins and Napier MP Stuart Nash.

The verdict from the children?

Flaxmere Primary School pupils Rhyka Mansell described the lunches as "delicious".

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Children at the school offered the Prime Minister some of their lunches. Photo / Paul Taylor
Children at the school offered the Prime Minister some of their lunches. Photo / Paul Taylor

Rhylan Arahanga said the "yummy" lunches were ideal. Fruit, biscuits, chips and macaroni were what he usually wanted to eat, he said.

Ardern sat with the children while they ate, sharing corn chips with Izaiyah Kahui-Ariki, saying she felt bad as they were his favourite food but he kept offering to share.

Ardern said 7000 pupils at 31 schools in Hawke's Bay/Tairāwhiti and Bay of Plenty/Waiariki are currently being fed by the programme.

It would be extending to 21,000 pupils in 120 schools, including Otago/Southland, by the start of 2021, she said.

The Prime Minister took a photo with the children during the assembly. Photo / Paul Taylor
The Prime Minister took a photo with the children during the assembly. Photo / Paul Taylor

"Ultimately we want every child in New Zealand to be learning with a full stomach," she said.

Children and teachers welcomed the ministers with a haka before the PM spoke directly to the assembly of children, asking them if they liked the lunches (a decibel shattering "yes").

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"A full stomach makes all the difference to a child's learning," Ardern said.

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The Prime Minister spoke about the school programme at Flaxmere Primary School on Thursday. Photo / Paul Taylor
The Prime Minister spoke about the school programme at Flaxmere Primary School on Thursday. Photo / Paul Taylor

School principal Robyn Isaacson said the programme, only recently introduced in Flaxmere, had helped the key aim of raising student achievement.

Isaacson said the programme meant children were able "to open a lunch box, to never actually complain about what's in it, to know that it is nutritious and is able to fill their pukus so they can learn in the afternoon".

"We are making good progress on tackling the long-term challenges that cause child poverty but none of the solutions are instant," Ardern said.

"Providing a free and healthy lunch at school is one way to help make New Zealand the best place in the world to be a child and to make that difference immediately.

"As we've seen at Flaxmere Primary, providing these lunches has also led to jobs for local families," she said.

Most of the 31 schools have selected external suppliers to provide lunches, with five opting to prepare their own.

"The model used by Flaxmere Primary involves whānau as key players in the design and delivery of its lunch programme," Hipkins said.

One of the children had made a card for the Prime Minister. Photo / Paul Taylor
One of the children had made a card for the Prime Minister. Photo / Paul Taylor

"All schools in this first tranche have worked hard to meet the requirements of the pilot and their insight will help to inform the ongoing rollout of free lunches in schools," he said.

The free and healthy school lunches' programme is one of 75 initiatives from New Zealand's Child and Youth Wellbeing Strategy launched last year, which was developed with input from 10,000 New Zealanders including 6000 young people.

Reducing child poverty is a key goal of the Government.

It hopes its $5.5 billion Families Package and initiatives in the Wellbeing Budget can raise 50,000-74,000 children out of poverty.

Flaxmere Primary also has a free stationery scheme, received $321,552 from the Government's School Investment Package, has signed up to the Government's School Donations Scheme and this year will have on-site one of the 600 new Learning Support Coordinators.