Another 26 Northland schools have joined the free lunches programme this term, bringing the total to 89 and feeding almost 15,000 students.
The Ka Ora, Ka Ako/Healthy School Lunches Programme includes primary, intermediate and high schools and is not decile-related.
Kaitaia College has joined the programme this term and also plans to close its canteen to ensure students only have the option of choosing healthy food for lunch.
Kaitaia College board of trustees chairman Sean Stratton has welcomed the news that the college, along with others in Northland, has been selected to participate in the programme.
"There's research that shows that children learn better with a full stomach, and we know there are students that come to school without lunch, or probably worse than that, you'll see them often walking to school with pies and soft drinks, which is obviously not a good way to start the day."
Stratton said the fact that the programme was funded by central government meant it was not a burden on the local community.
"We've been sitting and watching with interest what's been happening at other schools, and we're glad that we've finally made it onto the list."
He said that Kaitaia College already had a breakfast club, where students could get something to eat before classes started, but the lunch programme meant that no student would miss out.
"The major change for Kaitaia College, though, is the closure of the school canteen, because if we're dishing up free food and healthy food, we don't want students to have the option to make bad choices. The only food available on campus will be the free lunches."
Stratton said the school had opted to receive the food from local suppliers Bells Produce Ltd.
"We wanted to have a local supplier, because we wanted to obviously have food that was fresh, not having been carted from Auckland in a truck, and we wanted to promote and encourage local business and local employment.
"We're really pleased that Bells Produce Ltd, which is a subsidiary of Te Rarawa, one of the local iwi, have been successful in the contract at Kaitaia College."
Bells Produce Ltd are supplying to several schools in the region a combination of wraps, rolls and hot meals (the likes of nachos and spaghetti Bolognese) with muffins, slices or crackers with vege sticks and dips. Students are also enjoying free fruit donated by Bells Produce for morning tea. One week into their new contract, schools had reported little waste indicating the food had been a hit.
Ka Ora, Ka Ako/Healthy School Lunches Programme was a 2020 government initiative to deliver a free and healthy daily school lunch to Years 1-8 students with high levels of disadvantage. In response to the Covid pandemic, the programme is being expanded to reach around 960 schools delivering lunches to almost 215,000 (25 per cent of all) students by the end of 2021, including secondary students.
There are 89 Northland schools in the programme - 56 in the Far North, 21 in Whangārei and 12 in Kaipara – involving 14997 students. Schools included this term are: Herekino, Horeke, Kaingaroa, Mangonui, Moerewa, Motatau, Ngataki, Oturu, Pampapuria, Paparore, Pukenui, Pukepoto, Taipa Area, Te Hapua, Totara North, Pouto, Kaikohe Intermediate, Kaitaia College, Te Kura o Hato Hohepa Te Kamura, Te Kura o Te Kao, Te Kura o Waikare, Te Kura Kaupapa Māori o Pukemiro, Te Kura Kaupapa Māori o Whangaroa, Otamatea High and Whangārei Intermediate.