Free and healthy lunches in schools

The Prime Minister has announced that Year 1-8 students in up to 30 schools will be offered a free school lunch from Term 1, 2020. Up to 21,000 students in around 120 schools will eventually benefit from this prototype by the beginning of 2021. A decision will be made after this about whether to continue or extend the programme.

Child Youth and Wellbeing Strategy

The programme is part of the Government’s new Child Youth and Wellbeing Strategy. The Strategy recognises that reducing child poverty is vital to improving the wellbeing of many of our most vulnerable children and young people.

New Zealand Child and Youth Wellbeing Strategy (external link)

Participants in the programme

The Ministry of Education has identified 30 Bay of Plenty/Waiariki and Hawkes Bay / Tairawhiti schools with high levels of disadvantage, who will be invited to participate in the programme.

We will be contacting other schools in these regions, with the same characteristics, as well as schools in Otago / Southland. Starting in these regions will give us the mix of schools and kura in urban rural and isolated locations we need to fully evaluate impacts and issues with the programme.

All schools in the programme have children with high levels of disadvantage according to the Ministry of Education’s Equity Index. The Index estimates the extent to which each child grows up in socio-economically disadvantaged circumstances that are associated with educational outcomes.

Details of the programme

All Year 1 to 8 students in the participating schools will be offered a daily free lunch. This approach will ensure that every student who needs a free lunch can access one.

Regular nutritious meals give children the energy, focus and concentration they need to learn and develop.

Between 150,000 and 250,000 New Zealand children are in poverty, depending on the measures used.  One in five children experience moderate or severe food insecurity. In our most disadvantaged communities, 40 percent of parent’s run out of food sometimes or often. 

The Ministry of Education will work closely with schools and their communities, to support the design and delivery of free school lunches. Where schools are close together, we will encourage a community approach to providing free healthy lunches.

Other organisations

Some existing organisations already provide lunches to students. This programme will create opportunities for them to adapt or extend their current operations, either within the same schools, or in other schools. It is also likely to create opportunities for new food providers to work with schools. 

The scope of the free and healthy lunch programme is limited, at this stage, because the Government wants to trial what is involved in providing free lunches in a mix of school types and locations.

The effects of the programme on students’ wellbeing and education will be evaluated.

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