Free lunch on the table

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JACK.CONROY@nullcluthaleader.co.nz

They say there is no such thing as a free lunch. But there might be soon for some fortunate schools in the Clutha district.

Tokomairiro High School, Milton Primary School, St Mary’s School and Tokoiti School, along with Kaitangata Primary School, have signed on for a free healthy lunch programme administered by the Ministry of Education.

Tokomairiro High School principal Glenis Sim said she was “very excited” about the project. She said it would take financial burden off families in the area and improve young pupils’ educational prospects.

“All the schools are doing it, and all the pupils will get to receive a lunch,” Mrs Sim said.

This removed some of the stigma associated with being a family or child who needed assistance.

“If everybody is getting it then no-one is being singled out.” It also meant the youngsters would focus better in class.

“We know they concentrate heaps better after lunch if they’ve had a good meal.”

At Tokomairiro High School they hope to have the programme running by the second term of next year.

“We’ll get started as quick as we can. The ministry have to go through that process of selecting a vendor to do it.”

Mrs Sim had advertised the programme to food businesses in the Milton area to try to get them involved.

“We saw it as such a good business opportunity for Milton that we wanted to get people from our own community to do it.”

The Ka Ora, Ka Ako healthy school lunches programme was expanded with funding through the Government’s Covid Response and Recovery Fund.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said the pandemic had hit many families hard and there was a growing need for support.

“A full stomach makes all the difference to a child’s learning, so we have moved quickly to fund a major expansion of the school lunch programme – which will also create jobs,” Ms Ardern said.

“The programme will expand . . .from feeding nearly 8000 students currently to around 200,000 students by terms 2 to 3 in 2021.”