Concerns over food waste from a Government-funded lunch scheme don't seem to be shared by Bay of Plenty school leaders who say open communication is reducing waste.
Earlier this month, concerns were raised nationally about the level of food waste as part of the Ka Ora, Ka Ako programme which provides the option of free lunches to schools at a high socio-economic disadvantage.
Lunches are provided at a maximum per child, per day cost of $5 for students in Years 1 to 8, and $7 for students in Year 9 and older.
By the end of 2021, the programme expects to benefit 215,000 students in New Zealand.
Across the Bay of Plenty and Waiariki, 104 schools participate.
Schools in Rotorua and Tauranga report "very little waste" from the lunch programme and a lot of benefits for students.
Te Wharekura o Mauao deputy principal Teimana Bennett said aside from the obvious benefits of having kai made free and available for students, the programme had helped bring the school together as students and teachers all ate together.
Bennett said the system the school set up for serving the lunches also provided opportunities for student leadership.
"Our Year 13s clean and set up the gymnasium for meals."
The student council was involved in the process of choosing the meal provider, Bay Caterers.
Bennett said while some days the food was more popular than others, with hot food getting 100 per cent buy-in, there was limited wastage.
Leftovers were put out at the end of the day for students to take home, or fed to the school pigs.
Rotorua Girls' High School principal Sarah Davis said since her school had trialled the programme in term four last year, students were more likely to sit down, have lunch, and talk to each other.
"Teachers report an improvement in learning," Davis said.
"We're confident the girls are getting a nutritious diet which we know will support them through the rest of the day."
Davis said any leftovers were given to families to supplement what they had at home in the evening.
"Some days there's absolutely nothing left.
"That tends to be the days we have hot food items."
Davis said the school's meal provider Ka Pai Kai was good at getting feedback from students and trying different menus.
"There's been no drop off in the number of students accessing [the lunches]."
Feedback on menus has also been an important part of the relationship between Rotorua Boys' High School and its food provider Compass Eurest, school principal Chris Grinter said.
"The big challenge is keeping a refreshed menu because we saw some menu fatigue in term one.
"So we're conscious now of just trying to find dishes that the boys like that also meet the healthy parameters and keep a menu that's refreshed and responsive."
Some students had set up an Instagram page to review their lunches.
"I think the boys are managing that Instagram page very responsibly and we use it as another source of student feedback and student voice," Grinter said.
Rotorua Boys' High has 1130 lunches delivered each day.
Grinter said leftovers were either given to the boys to take home to their families or picked up by the Salvation Army.
Gate Pa School principal Rochelle Jensen said, for her school, providing lunches was primarily a health initiative.
"It's about being able to provide a balanced, nutritious diet.
"The students encourage each other to try new foods, and that's great."
Jensen said the lunches also helped give life to what students learn from the school garden.
"They can find out where their food comes from."
Leftovers from the lunches are given to families as koha at the end of the day.
Any scraps are fed to local pigs.
Kaitao Intermediate principal Phil Palfrey said if there were leftovers the school offered students second servings and there was little waste.
Palfrey, who is passionate about the programme, said it was also about educating children's tastes.
"In comparison to unhealthy foods, sure, the lunches are different but it's better for them."
Palfrey believed the lunches supported attendance.
Ministry of Education deputy secretary sector enablement and support Katrina Casey said schools in the Ka Ora, Ka Ako programme had no requirement to count surplus lunches on a daily or weekly basis.
"We ask schools to provide an estimate of surplus lunch numbers and what they do with them in their end of term reporting," Casey said.
"There will always be parts of a lunch not eaten as we know that children's tastes vary and for many, this will be the first time they have tried some foods.
"Where lunches are leftover, schools are using them in a number of creative ways."
Selected schools and kura in the Bay of Plenty are currently taking part in an evaluation of the programme.