Thousands of children have begun receiving a free lunch on every day of the school week.
To mark the launch of the free lunch programme Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Education Minister Chris Hipkins helped serve up lunch for students at Flaxmere Primary School in Hawke's Bay.
They're some of the 7000 students in 31 schools in Hawke's Bay, Tairawhiti and Bay of Plenty/Waiariki to receive a daily free lunch under the programme, which will be extended to 21,000 students in 120 schools by the start of 2021.
Official figures show one in 10 children in New Zealand live in material hardship and tens of thousands are going without healthy food.
A full stomach makes all the difference to a child's learning, Jacinda Ardern said.
The $45 million free school lunch programme is one of 75 initiatives launched by the government last year to tackle child poverty and improve youth wellbeing.
"We are making good progress on tackling the long-term challenges that cause child poverty but none of the solutions are instant.
"Providing a free and healthy lunch at school is one way to help make New Zealand the best place in the world to be a child and to make that difference immediately.
"As we've seen at Flaxmere Primary, providing these lunches has also led to jobs for local families," Ardern said
Most schools have selected external suppliers to provide their lunches, with five opting to prepare their own lunches.
The model used by Flaxmere Primary involves whānau as key players in the design and delivery of its lunch programme, Chris Hipkins said.
"All schools in this first tranche have worked hard to meet the requirements of the pilot and their insight will help to inform the ongoing rollout of free lunches in schools," he said.
Every student at Flaxmere Primary receives a free lunch under the programme.
Local supplier Pure Catering produces 460 lunches offsite each week day, and families were employed by the company to pack them into school lunch boxes and to clean up afterwards.