Tuesday, March 5, 2024

Major milestone unpacked for free school lunch programme

The Government’s free and healthy school lunches programme has delivered its 100 millionth meal, Prime Minister, Chris Hipkins, announced today.

“The free and healthy school lunches programme has been helping stop school students go hungry, reducing food insecurity and improving learning since 2020,” said Prime Minister Hipkins.

“It’s a programme I’m really proud of, and the benefits of it are seen by principals, teachers and parents right across the country. They report improved attendance and better focus, especially in the afternoons as a result of students having a good lunch.

“It’s also driving down costs for parents right when they need a hand with the cost of living – by removing a daily pressure on the household Budget.”

The PM said the programme is estimated to save a family with two kids, on average, around $66 per week and $2,500 per year. It also supports over 2,300 jobs in communities across New Zealand, he said.

“Under a Labour Government, free and healthy school lunches is here to stay,” said Mr Hipkins.

Around 48% of learners (106,560) receiving a free and healthy school lunch are Māori and around 20% (44,400) are Pacific.

“Food insecurity in households with children decreased from 2019/20 to 2021/22, despite global inflation and cost of living pressures,” Education and Child Poverty Reduction Minister, Jan Tinetti said.

“Approximately 230,000 students at 995 schools and kura get a healthy lunch every school day – we know that if the programme wasn’t in place there would be many children who would go without.

“Teachers, school trustees and whānau acknowledge the difference the programme makes in the classroom and to the behaviour of students. They know how hard it is for hungry kids to learn. 

“When kids have food in their bellies their attention span is better, their communication skills improve, they’re more focused and there’s a lift in confidence. Here at Alfriston College, staff say that students are much calmer and more attentive in the classroom since they started providing lunches. I have heard similar from many other schools and kura.

“As we mark 100 million lunches being served, I want to acknowledge all the schools, suppliers, whānau, hapu and iwi who have made the free and healthy school lunches programme the huge success that it is today,” she said.

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