Company funds free lunches for secondary school students

From Checkpoint, 5:48 pm on 29 April 2019

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

A pilot programme launched today by school food and drink provider Libelle Group at Taita College offers students sandwiches or burgers, fruit and yoghurt.

Company chief executive Johannes Tietze said he was sick of waiting for politicians to step up, and funded the project himself at an estimated cost of $448,000.

He said the venture was a risk, but eventually he wanted to feed every secondary school student through Txt My Lunch.

"We don't have to wait for a government to get their rear into gear and fix stuff, we can just do it ourselves and that's what we're doing.

"The only thing that I'm a bit concerned about is that I'm personally paying for this initial project myself, so it's all hands on the pump now to try get partners on board to actually give us a hand to pay for it. "

Taita College was chosen because students were not using the canteen, and were skipping school to buy food elsewhere. 

School principal Karen Morgan said it was an opportunity she could not  refuse, and it was a brilliant thing to happen.

She said while it was known good food helped students succeed, they can now prove it by monitoring the effects of the programme on students' performance. 

"Through this initiative I believe we can start looking at the stats around attendance, around improved attendance potentially, around improved grades, around improved participation in groups and activities and things that are going on at school and within Taita College," Ms Morgan said.

Students, who said they were reluctant to buy food from the old canteen because it was expensive, were given a say in the new menu.

Student Brent Rikiriki said the free lunch would mean he could focus in class.

"Because when I'm in class I'm always hungry.

"I'm like, can't wait until morning tea, I can buy ... some food, or can't wait until lunch because I'm really hungry. But now I can just get it morning tea or lunch."

The Ministry of Education could not say whether this programme was the only one on offer in the country, but the principal's association said it would be "uncommon" for a college to offer every student a free lunch.