Prime Minister John Key got Education Minister Hekia Parata to cold-call three low-decile schools at random today and find out how many children had come to school without lunch.

He revealed during question time that he had done so, during questions from Greens co-leader Metiria Turei on providing lunches in schools and ahead of votes on two private members' bills tonight.

Mr Key said while some children went to school without lunch, he did not think it was widespread.

He said he had asked Hekia Parata at 1.41 pm today to call three schools, decile one or two, and ask them how many of their students had arrived at school without lunch then he recited the results.


"These are the facts," Mr Key said. "At Te Waiu o Ngati Porou School, Ruatoria, Decile one, how many children came to school without lunch - answer - zero."

At Sylvia Park School, decile two - there one or two kids, and at Manurewa Intermediate, a decile one school with a roll of 711, perhaps 12 had gone to school with no lunch, he said.

"Yes there is an issue where some children come to school without lunch. That number of children is relatively low," Mr Key said.

Ms Turei and Mr Key have been having testy exchanges in the House over children who go to school without lunch.

Last week Ms Turei claimed that KidsCan had said that up to 90 per cent of kids in schools went to school without lunch every day - a statement she later corrected and apologised for.

Today she visited Windley School in Porirua where 50 children were fed with peanut butter and jam sandwiches and criticized Mr Key for not agreeing to go with her.

She tabled a KidsCan document showing that KidsCan fed about 15,000 across 448 schools, an average of 33 pupils in each of the participating schools.

A bill in her name, originally known as Hone Harawira's "feed the kids" bill was defeated in Parliament this evening, by 59 votes to 61 at its first reading.


She inherited the bill from Mr Harawira after he lost his Te Tai Tokerau seat at the election last year.

The bill provided for state-funded breakfast and lunches at all decile one and two schools.

The Government argued that it already contributes to programmes that provide food in schools through Kickstart groups such as Kidscan and through Fonterra.

Meanwhile another food in schools bill in the name of Labour MP David Shearer was defeated tonight at its first reading as well.

The bill allowed for free food in all primary and intermediate decile one to three schools that wanted.

However During his research on the bill, Mr Shearer came across several schools including Yendarra School in Otara, and Owairaka District School, which took a community approach to food in schools and changed his thinking.

"I have become convinced that free food solves nothing," he has said.

"I now believe that each school community should be resourced to find and deliver its own long-term food solutions."

He still wanted the bill sent to a select committee so it could be reworked.

The vote on his bill was 60 in favour and 60 against, meaning it could not progress.