The collective provision of over 2000 school meals each day will boost learning and the local economy.

Te Puke's primary, intermediate and high schools as well as Maketū, Pukehina, Rangiuru and Te Kura Kaupapa Maori o Te Matai will all be part of the expansion of the Government's Lunch in Schools programme announced in the May Budget.

Across the country the programme will provide free school lunches for 200,000 students by mid 2021.

The primary, intermediate and high schools have teamed up with Maketū School to find one provider of lunches for all four schools.

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Te Puke Primary School principal Shane Cunliffe says the inclusion of local schools in the programme is outstanding news, saying not only does it mean students will be ready for learning each day, it also provides a vehicle to teach and harness the importance of health, wellbeing, nutrition and the cultural significance of coming together for kai.

The initiative will also inject up to $12,000 per day into the local community.

The schools invited to be part of the scheme are identified by their equity index.
Shane says it makes economic sense for schools to work together to find a meals provider.

''We don't have the internal capability to do 2000 lunches a day, we are looking at something that will provide fulltime employment for people.

''We are looking at a real equitable outcome in terms of kids being ready for learning so it is taking another barrier away for many families to access schooling with energy and sustainability.

''We have a lot of families that potentially wouldn't send kids to school if there was no food in the house because they feel embarrassed about not being able to provide.

''From a schools' perspective, what we've been doing a lot of work in and around is the quality of the food that is in our tamariki's lunch boxes. There are quite strict guidelines in terms of the nutritional value of the food that the Lunches in Schools will provide as well."

Every pupil on the roll will be able to access the meals, and as far as possible special dietary requirements will be met.

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''Obviously there will be the option to opt out, but even from a cultural perspective, we are looking at providing food that will meet the needs of as many of our diverse eaters and families and cultures. I think it's one of the biggest things that's happened around equity for a long, long time.''

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Shane says he hopes the contract will go to a local business.

''If we have a choice, we would want to keep it local so there are opportunities for people to have a role in terms of employment and really owning it for the community.

''We are really passionate about providing opportunities for our communities and this is going to pump probably up to $2 million a year back into the local economy.''

Currently the tender process is open through the Government Electronic Tender Service (GETS) platform.