There is such a thing as a free lunch at Māruawai College and pupils are reaping the benefits, principal Mel Hamilton says.

The school’s senior campus joined the government’s Ka Ora, Ka Ako Healthy School Lunches Programme at the start of this year.

The junior campus, formerly known as Longford Intermediate, has been part of the scheme for several years.

The programme was introduced by Labour in 2019, and allocated $323.4 million in the 2023 Budget to continue this year but has not been funded beyond that.

Associate Education Minister David Seymour is now reviewing the programme.

Mrs Hamilton said she thought the free lunches was a ‘‘great initiative’’.

‘‘Teachers are reporting that kids are more settled in their learning after the first break because they’ve eaten.’’

‘‘Kids that would normally have not brought any lunch are eating healthy options just because it’s freely available. It has reduced food inequity.’’

It would be disappointing if the government decided to stop the scheme, Mrs Hamilton said.

Free for all. . . Enjoying a selection of food as part of the Government’s Ka Ora, Ka Ako Healthy School lunches programme are Maruawai College pupils (front from left) Regan Gillan, Chelsey Beattie, both 14, Brea Nicholson,16 and Brodie Johnston, 14 and (back) Will Abernethy,14. PHOTO: SANDY EGGLESTON

The food was available in the cafeteria at the first break in the day at 11.10am. At the second break of the day at 1.45pm, pupils can buy food from the cafeteria.

There had been some unexpected social benefits that came from pupils eating together, she said.

The food was provided by Subway on Mondays and Fridays and meals for the rest of the week were prepared by One Chef Kitchen owner Kath Mitchell.

The recipes have been approved by a Ministry of Education nutritionist.

About 700 meals a day are prepared.

The pupils will be surveyed shortly to find out what they think of the food.

Head pupils Manmeet Kaur, 17, and Bishal Khatri, 18, are also in favour of the scheme.

It made sure everyone had access to food, Manmeet said.

‘‘There’s usually a wide variety of meals we get each day.’’

It was stopping pupils from leaving the school to buy food which had been a problem, Bishal said.

‘‘There’s no point going out of school when you’ve got school lunch here.’’

He enjoys the days when hot food is served.

‘‘The lasagne and burritos are really good.’’