Despite the axiom that there is no such thing as a free lunch, that is just what Tuturau Primary School pupils tucked into on Wednesday.
The lunch was a trial run for next term when the school will have free lunches daily.
The school would be one of 18 joining the Government’s free school lunch programme by term three as a result of increased funding allocated towards the programme in this year’s Budget.
Acting Principal Diane Walker said she was pleased with the new policy.
“I think it’s great,” Mrs Walker said.
When children were all eating the same food there was a kind of positive peer pressure at play, making them less likely to be picky, she said.
“It encourages kids to eat better.”
She thought the policy was especially important in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic to ease the burden on parents.
“Families are at all different stages of employment or lack of employment.”
“It’s one less thing for parents to do.”
The trial meal was a butter chicken with hidden vegetables.
It had gone down well with the 31 pupils at Tuturau.
“They all loved it.”
Pupil Amity Brinsdon said the meal was “yum”.
“The chicken is delicious.”
The lunches would be cooked by charitable programme Koha Kai in Mataura each day before being driven 10 minutes down the road to the school.
There was an emphasis on healthy food and Koha Kai would use some vegetables it had grown itself.
The impact of the free lunches on pupils would be evaluated.
“The Government will be assessing energy and engagement,” Mrs Walker said.
Education Minister Chris Hipkins said that the programme was being extended in stages.
“Around 200,000 more children [will] get a free lunch by the end of 2021,” Mr Hipkins said.
“A full stomach makes all the difference to a child’s learning.”