Otago prisoners make lunches for hungry school kids

Hungry school children in south Otago are being fed, thanks to some unusual cooks.

Inmates at Milton prison are turning their hand to making school lunches. And it's not only feeding the kids - it's giving career options to the prisoners.

Lunchtime at Milton Primary School is a very social affair, but hanging out with your friends isn't as fun with an empty lunchbox.

"We had some parents approach us at Project Bruce with concerns that there were children that didn't have enough to eat at school, and their children were sharing food," Project Bruce community development worker Kim Schiller says.

Those concerns prompted the community organisation to develop a unique project to tackle the problem. They've formed a partnership with the nearby prison, employing inmates to make school lunches.

Some of the food is donated by local companies, while other ingredients come via food rescue organisation KiwiHarvest.

"Kids who go to school without lunch often display educational learning issues and health issues at the time, and also later on in life," KiwiHarvest Dunedin branch co-ordinator Trixie Croad says. "So it's really important that we prioritise them in terms of food insecurity." 

Ten inmates are working on the project at the Otago Correctional Facility, making filled rolls, sandwiches and muffins in the prison's commercial kitchen.

It's a chance for them to gain qualifications and trade skills while doing something meaningful.

"Obviously a lot of men in our care have had periods of time where they've potentially gone hungry," assistant prison director Renee Clarkson says. "So they can fully understand and appreciate and support the local children getting meals for lunch."

It's estimated one in five kids sometimes go hungry, so 100 free lunches will be delivered daily to four schools in the Milton area.

"It's for any student, we're not discriminating," Schiller says. "Any kid can rock up and help themselves if they need something extra to eat, or if they've forgotten their lunch."

Prison inmates, feeding the stomachs - and minds - of south Otago students.


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