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Minister told to go talk to the schools about free lunch programme

Maioha Panapa

Associate professor of health science annoyed by axing plans

Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ On Air

Massey University Associate Professor Bevan Erueti says Associate Education Minister David Seymour, who plans to axe up to half the free school meals programme arguing it is “wasteful” and “doesn’t show benefits in student achievement”, needs to talk to the schools.

“What the minister is failing to do is to go and talk to the schools, to go into the schools and actually see the impact, ask the leadership, talk to the principals, talk to teachers. Most importantly he should talk to young people and their whānau.”

Erueti is a part of the research team that did a case study on the Dannevirke High School’s Ka Ora, Ka Ako lunch programme, revealing a holistic approach to the benefits of preparing meals in a wharekai.

“We know from research that the student and teacher relationships are one of the most important elements to achievement. We saw their wharekai as one of those elements in helping to build those relationships because of the setting they are placed in with kai at school,”

But Seymour says: “It’s clear from the research the ministry has done that if you give people food they feel fuller, and they get more nutrition. But that’s not the job of the Education Department. The job of the Education Department is kids going to school and learning lots. The lunch program actually hasn’t helped with those things.”

Meanwhile, Labour leader Chris Hipkins has started a petition to support the continuation of school lunch programme.

“The school lunches program is clearly successful, since 220,000 kids across the country are getting a free and healthy lunch in school every day,” Hipkins says.

“We know it’s making a difference and the government is threatening to cut that.”

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