A former lab at Ross Intermediate School now has tongs, burners and thermometers of a different kind.
It's been transformed into a commercial kitchen from which a team of five produces lunches for the school.
The kitchen has large-scale cooking appliances, barn doors to the pantry, and cafe-style shutter windows.
Elizabeth Paine manages the food for schools programme for Ross, which has chosen to deliver the lunches internally rather than use an external supplier.
Paine taught classical studies and Spanish at Freyberg High School for 26 years. For 14 years she owned a restaurant in Palmerston North with family and also has a catering background.
Paine says the kitchen allows students to see catering in action. Freyberg, where many Ross students move to, offers hospitality as does UCOL so providing exposure to the industry at intermediate age helps those who want to pursue this subject, she says.
The Ross catering staff provide lunches for 531 students and 20 teachers each day.
Mince nachos with a carrot and tomato sauce were on the menu the day the Guardian visited. Other menu items have included butter chicken with a yoghurt base, meatball subs and filled rolls. They are served in compostable containers and with compostable cutlery.
Mayo and butter in rolls are not liked, and coleslaw, tomato and eggs are not popular.
The Ministry of Education has provided menu guidelines, which include no fried food and no more than 5g sugar in each meal.
The aim of the programme is to give students a range of foods they can try and the menu is moving from white to wholemeal grains, Paine says.
She takes care of the lunches for the 42 students with special dietary requirements - lactose intolerant, halal, coeliac, gluten free, vegetarian and vegan. The kitchen is nut free.
Phase two of Ross' food in schools programme is building an outdoor area for students to eat their lunch rather than in classrooms. Work has started on this. Phase 3 is to improve the packing station space.
Packing and delivery are big parts of the programme as the food needs to arrive looking good and at the right temperature so the students will eat it, Paine says.
Ross started delivering the Ka Ora, Ka Ako healthy school lunches programme at the beginning of term 1 this year. Staff worked from a makeshift kitchen until a few weeks ago. The programme was limited in what could be served and more items were brought in.
Plans include cooking classes for parents and making use of herbs grown at the school.
Ka Ora, Ka Ako
The Ka Ora, Ka Ako healthy school lunches programme aims to reduce food insecurity by providing access to a nutritious lunch in school every day.
By August 2021, more than 20 million lunches have been served in 875 schools.
About one in five children in New Zealand live in households that struggle to put enough good-quality food on the table.
The name Ka Ora, Ka Ako is about being healthy and well in order to be in a good place to learn.
Source: Ministry of Education