On today’s menu at Rodney College – mac n’ cheese.
Wellsford School and Rodney College have benefitted from a free lunches programme rolled out by the Government this month.
College acting principal Stephen Rowe says he has already noticed a difference in students’ ability to concentrate.
“Students who might have bought a 1.5 litre sugary soft drink at lunch to fill them up don’t seem to be doing that now,” he says.
At Rodney, the meals are served at 10.30am as many students arrive at school without having had breakfast.
The college trialled breakfasts in the school marae, but the trial was discontinued as students weren’t making use of it because that they did not want to be singled out.
“Hungry vulnerable kids didn’t go because they were afraid of being labelled,” Mr Rowe said.
The new programme universally provides meals for all children at eligible schools. Principal Rowe says some students still bring their lunches and wait to see what the meals are like before giving up on their peanut butter sandwiches.
The Ministry of Education says around one in five Kiwi kids lives in a household that struggles to put enough food on the table.
In some low decile communities, 40 per cent of families say they sometimes run out of food.
The Ministry aims to be providing 215,000 students with meals across 963 schools by the end of the year – that is 25 per cent of students in New Zealand.
Schools are able to select meal providers, with Ministry approval. Labelles Catering won the contract for Rodney College, while Subway has the contract for Wellsford School.
Lunches are provided by the Government at a maximum “per child, per day” cost of $5 for students in Years 1 to 8, and $7 for students in Years 9 to 13.
The Government has also given Rodney College $150 per student to replace a donation scheme. The college was asking parents for $100 a year, but only one-third of parents were paying it.
“It means we can do more with the students, removing the stress and stigma for parents unable to pay.”