Key Points:

National Party leader John Key's plan to provide food for hungry pupils has run into a problem -- the principal of his first target school says she doesn't need it.

Mr Key announced on Saturday he was launching a national Food in Schools programme, with Wesley Primary School in Auckland first off the blocks.

Auckland-based company Tasti Foods would make a "generous donation" and might extend it to other schools, he said.

But the school's principal, Rae Parkin, said today she was shocked when she read about Mr Key's announcement.

"John Key hasn't even visited my school," she told NZPA.

"This is embarrassing. I don't want to end up with parents thinking I'm putting something in place because I don't think they can feed their children. They can feed them."

Ms Parkin said Mr Key phoned her before he made the announcement, and her interpretation of the conversation was that Tasti Foods was prepared to give the school some muesli bars.

She thought they could be used for fund-raising.

"I certainly never discussed a breakfast or free lunch system with him," she said.

"It's of great concern to me that now it's been reported that this is being set up."

When Mr Key announced his plan he said he had been told the school, like many others, had too many children turning up hungry.

Ms Parkin said there were some cases. "We do have some children sometimes who might be hungry but no more or less than the last school I taught in, and that was higher decile."

The decile one school is near McGechan Close, one of the "mean streets" Mr Key identified in his speech last week when he talked about an "underclass" in New Zealand.

Both are in Labour MP Phil Goff's Mt Roskill electorate.

"If he had visited the area first he might have been better aware of the situation," Mr Goff said.

"To suggest this school needed a food programme before consulting them in the first instance really only suggests this is part of a political stunt."

Mr Key said Ms Parkin's attitude had changed since he spoke to her on Friday.

"I think what you can assume is that there's been influence from the ministry, from the Labour Party," he said.

"It's a tragedy they would be prepared to put their own self-interest ahead of an Opposition party's attempts to do something for kids."

Mr Key said he made it clear to Ms Parkin there would be media interest in his plan.

"Something in the last 48 hours changed, and the only assumption I can make is that there was external influence."

Education Minister Steve Maharey said there had been no intervention or influence.

"I can categorically say that I have not phoned, written a letter, sent someone round or in any way contacted the school," he said.

"John Key is completely out of touch. If they knew what programmes were going into that school, they wouldn't have tried to rush into a programme like this."

Mr Maharey said Mr Key should apologise to Ms Parkin for saying she had been influenced.

"She said those things entirely of her own volition."

- NZPA