9 May 2024

How KidsCan provides a nutritious school lunch for $2

6:19 pm on 9 May 2024

KidsCan charity for children says it is absolutely possible - and that it has been doing so by providing $2 fresh meals for nearly 6000 children per day.

It comes after the government said it was budgeting $3 per lunch down from $8.

It announced $107 million a year in savings in the current Ka Ora, Ka Ako programme, of which $4m will be used to provide free morning tea and lunches to pre-schoolers.

Labour had budgeted $323m for the school year, but the Ministry of Education forecasted the actual cost would be $342m due to food inflation and population growth.

Under the coalition government's revised programme it will cost $234.8m for the 2025 school year.

"At the moment KidsCan budget $2," Associate Education Minister David Seymour said.

"If you look at what big catering companies are able to to, they actually manage to do - I was sceptical myself - but they actually manage to provide very nutritious food at very low prices," he said.

KidsCan Charitable Trust said that was just how much its meals cost.

KidsCan chief executive Julie Chapman

KidsCan chief executive Julie Chapman. Photo: Supplied / KidsCan

KidsCan chief executive and co-founder Julie Chapman told Checkpoint the charity supplied early childhood centres with ingredients every week which could be made into lasagna or chicken stir fry with veges, cauliflower and mac and cheese, stews and sandwiches.

"And because of our supplier relationships and buying power that we've built up, we can absolutely do those for $2 or less sometimes for a serve.

"In schools, we also have a range of heat and eat meals that include butter chicken with brown rice, spaghetti Bolognese, beef chilli rice, and soups, and the average cost of that is around $2 as well."

She said the packaged food did have "good nutritional content".

KidsCan was one of the players advising the government on the lunch programme.

"We didn't suggest the figure. What we were asked to do was to share our learnings that we've had over the past 18 years.

"We also advocated a lot for an extension of food to be provided into early childhood centres."

She said as a charity, it was not looking to make a profit, as compared with commercial providers.

The "biggest" need was in early childhood centres.

"We're providing a lunch to around 5800 kids a day in early childhood, but we have more than 5000 waiting and we can't get to them at the moment."

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