A charity supplying schools with freezers full of cooked meals each term is helping to relieve stress for struggling students and their families.
Kura Kai, founded by Pāpāmoa woman Makaia Carr, is supporting more than 30 schools across the country.
Each school receives a large chest freezer and volunteers work to keep it stocked with nutritious meals. The school then decides how the meals are distributed in their school community.
Pāpāmoa College, Te Puke High School, Ōtumoetai College, Tarawera High School, Ōpōtiki College and Mount Maunganui College are the six Bay schools working with Kura Kai.
Carr said the "whānau cooking for whānau" model was a simple and effective way to get communities involved.
"I have been blown away by the way they do it. You can tell they have cooked with so much aroha, so much care. They deliver it with so much respect.
"It is a grassroots, community connection way of helping, and it just brings out beautiful things in people."
She said sadly need was "huge", with the charity receiving requests from schools across the country every other day.
She was particularly passionate about supporting young Māori and Pacific students and removing barriers for them in completing their education.
"It has been amazing how the level of support has grown."
Carr was often told by schools the initiative had helped to open up lines of communication with families and took the pressure off those who were struggling. Meals were also given to extended family members in need.
"It has brought another level of care. Some families are receiving kai weekly, which is relieving a bit of stress and financial pressure."
She had also received feedback from multiple schools about the frozen meals being given to students in-between homes.
"They have got no home, so they are jumping from whare to whare. It is making them feel a bit better if they can show up with some kai to say thank you for having me."
The initiative started last year after Carr, who had a large following on social media, was reflecting on how she used her platforms.
A follower reached out to her to ask if she would put a shoutout on her Instagram to help fill a "compassion freezer" at Otumoetai Primary. It was filled to the brim within a few days of making the post.
"The concept was simple, effective and a grassroots way to help. That's what helped develop Kura Kai."
Kura Kai was in desperate need of more volunteers who were willing to cook for the schools with freezers, she said.
"That is where the handbrake is."
Ōpōtiki College principal Susan Impey said the school had been working with Kura Kai since the middle of last year.
She praised Carr and all volunteers involved. The charity helped simplify the process of supporting students, she said.
"I admire what she has done and how simple she has made it for schools. She is phenomenal.
"It gives us another avenue to be able to support in the way of practical resources. It takes the stress away of feeding whanau.
"It may not always be lack of food or resources in the house, it could be that the family are in a particularly tragic situation."
Recently Whakatohea iwi had done a massive cook-up, filling up the freezer with roast pork, she said.
"It has also been great in terms of the community demonstrating awhi and support for young people and families they might not know directly."
Support from Kura Kai worked well in conjunction with Ka ora, Ka Oka - the healthy lunches in schools programme - which started after lockdown last year.
"We know our kids are well-fed and can be well-fed throughout the day. We know that our kids don't have to be hungry at any time of the day or evening," Impey said.
Mount Maunganui College principal Alastair Sinton said Kura Kai was a mechanism to support the wider community - not just students and families. A freezer was donated to the school in Term 1 this year.
"It is an opportunity for all of our students to show kindness and provide practical support for their local community."
Tarawera High School acting principal Julie Mees and assistant principal Raewyn Morgan said, in a written statement, support from Kura Kai had helped strengthen community relationships.
"We are now working closely with the Rotary Club of Kawerau who are helping with cooking the next freezer full of meals to donate to our community."