Free lunches for Taita College students

By Tema Hemi

About 400 students at a Lower Hutt college are now receiving a free meal everyday, but the company running the service is yet to secure funding.

The pilot programme has been launched by school food and drink provider Libelle Group at Taita College. 

Taita College Principal Karen Morgan says, "If we can provide our students with a healthy nutritious lunch every day the ability for them to engage in their learning, to concentrate to focus and to be the best they can be is just going to be so enhanced. 

"He tino rawe, they're so happy and excited about it.  They have been going into the canteen and appreciating the food and some of the feedback that we've already got is, 'hey, I'm able to go into class and do my mahi.'"

However, the question is why are companies and other groups having to provide meals for those who can't afford lunches instead of the government?

Education Minister Chris Hipkins says, "Anything like that will be subject to a budget decision on the part of the government and I can't really comment on that at the moment.  Kids who are well-fed are obviously going to be able to concentrate better in their schooling.  Other countries do this a lot, it's not something New Zealand has a long history with, providing lunches in schools."

Taita College student Chiquita Pene says, "They're real helpful to us as well because most people in our school don't even have lunches or can't afford lunches."

"I reckon it's a good way to get kids focused because it gives them energy in class," student William Bower says. 

Libelle Group is a school food service provider which provides food for over 60,000 hungry students daily.  Its chief executive, Johannes Tietze, says he knows its a liability to him financially but he's not waiting for this government to make a decision.

Tietze says, "I've gone ahead and said 'alright, I'm going to bite the bullet here and show people how its done'.  Because there is actually, from what I can gather, not really any grants or funding around this sort of thing from the government."

The Libelle Group have designed a simple txt service TXTMYLUNCH 

They are yet to launch the app but believe it will be make a big difference in lower decile areas.