Flaxmere Primary School has been at the forefront of a government trial of free lunches for all students. Now it's trialling sending them home.
Principal Robyn Isaacson said the first day on Monday of free lunches delivered to Year 1-8 students was a success.
The free lunches programme was launched in early-2020, by the Government, with the aim to reduce food insecurity by providing access to a nutritious lunch in school every day.
But a challenge arose when the Covid-19 pandemic hit New Zealand, bringing with it a host of restrictions including children not being able to attend school.
Isaacson said the school has 440 children in 300 households and so far had provided arts, crafts and study support packages to the students as a way of helping them through the pandemic.
"Our aim with the free lunches programme is to be able to continue feeding our children, and support their whanau, while staying secure in our bubbles due to Level 3 restrictions," Isaacson said.
"Their whanau is doing a great job of it, and we need to do whatever we can to support them."
She said at the beginning of each week, on a Monday and Tuesday, lunch boxes will now be delivered to homes by Pure Catering, who have an updated list of all the students' addresses.
"We are trialling it this week, and we will see how it goes. It's a huge undertaking.
"The boxes will contain ingredients like bread, eggs, ham, milk, cheese, margarine, sausages, fruits and cookies, for a week of lunches for our tamariki," she said.
"These items will allow children, alongside whanau, to make lunches each day."
She said the quantities of what is provided will increase depending on the size of the household and the number of students in it.
"If your family does not require the lunch boxes that are being delivered by Pure Catering this week, please still take the food, then you can pay it forward by giving it to another whānau you know of," she said.
Parents responded on Facebook with how grateful they were with the programme.
"Ae our whanau are grateful for the kai given...tino rawe Te kura o Paharakeke," said one.
The Government's free and healthy school lunch programme was launched in February for 7000 students at 31 schools in Hawke's Bay / Tairāwhiti and Bay of Plenty / Waiariki, extending to 21,000 students in 120 schools, including Otago / Southland, by the start of 2021.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern launched it at Flaxmere Primary with Education Minister Chris Hipkins.
On the day she said "A full stomach makes all the difference to a child's learning".
"We are making good progress on tackling the long-term challenges that cause child poverty but none of the solutions are instant.
"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," Ardern said.