The sight of up to 300 students lining up for hot meals at school lunchtimes tugs at teacher Natalie Malan's heart.
"It's clear how much this food means," says Malan, the Assistant Principal at Haeata Community Campus, a decile 1 school in Christchurch. "We see a real difference in focus when our students are full."
Seeing the need, Malan worked with staff and students to establish the school's lunch programme two years ago. The initiative offered students meals like chicken and rice, beef stew and chicken and vegetable soup provided by the charity KidsCan.
The meals have kept coming, thanks to a local business. The school's KidsCan programme is funded by a Christchurch company Gemelli Consulting, one of many businesses supporting the charity.
Although Haeata has just signed up to government-funded lunches, with Gemelli's funding KidsCan continues to provide breakfast, snacks, jackets, shoes, and health products to students in need. This year alone more than 100 warm jackets and almost as many pairs of shoes have been donated.
Now KidsCan is calling on more businesses to contribute to the work it is doing to support children living in poverty. "Many live in freezing homes where hot food and warm clothes are scarce," CEO Julie Chapman says. "This puts extra pressure on schools and early childhood centres because children can't function if they are cold or hungry.
"Tackling child poverty in New Zealand takes a village. Our business supporters are a crucial part, sharing our vision of a better future for all Kiwi kids."
Haeata is one of 829 schools KidsCan supports with breakfast, snacks, hot meals, jackets, shoes, and health items. The kura has a roll of 650 ākonga [students.] Malan says many of the school's whānau report the support they receive from KidsCan makes a significant difference for their children.
"The provision of healthy food has had such a positive impact on our students and has helped to raise achievement levels, with kaiako [teachers] reporting higher levels of concentration and engagement in the classroom as a result. It boosts student's confidence, and they are more settled," Malan says.
"All children deserve the best. Here at Haeata we care about all our students having the best possible access to education – and food and clothing are basic to that."
"We are very grateful and thankful for the support we've received from KidsCan and, through them, Gemelli."
Gemelli director James Stewart says the company uses profits from business consulting to work to eradicate poverty. "We build homes in Nepal, but our support for KidsCan came because we also wanted to make an impact closer to home. We feel a responsibility to help those in need when our business does well.
"One of the benefits of funding the KidsCan programme at Haeata is that our team has been able to see the difference they are making. We've been to help the catering staff serve lunch and talked to some of the students we're helping. It provides the team with a sense of satisfaction and motivation and helps communicate our values and drivers to our clients."
Chapman says the financial and in-kind support of the business community enables KidsCan to reach more children: "Together we give more than 200,000 kids access to the essentials they need to participate in learning.
"Our business supporters are usually small to medium businesses who want to make a difference in their communities," she says. "They give an annual donation of $5000 or more which supports 15 or more children a year. It always gives their staff a boost to know they are giving back in such a tangible way."
Chapman says thousands of children are waiting for KidsCan support, especially in early childhood centres. "We need more businesses to step up and be the difference for those kids."
To find out how your business can best support KidsCan, call 09 478 1525 or visit kidscan.org.nz/partner-with-kidscan