A principal has lauded the "game-changing" free school lunch programme since children are now eating the food they want - even though there are concerns it's becoming too politically correct.
As students return to school on Monday, many who may have gone hungry will be fed under the Government's free lunch policy. But long gone are the days of the humble sandwich - the menu is now a bit more gourmet.
There are currently 790 low decile schools in the free school lunch programme, but by the end of the year, there'll be 964 - more than 25 percent of New Zealand school students.
It costs $5 for a primary school lunch and $7 for a high school lunch.
"For us, it's been a game-changer," Brent Griffin, principal of Western Heights Primary School in Rotorua, told The Project.
"Lunches have been a problem for our children. Not the fact that they're not getting lunch, but certainly that the lunch was not nutritious in any way."
"Children had a big part to play in the construction of the menu and they are getting food that they've requested and it's delivered in a healthy way."
A traffic light system is used as a symbol of obedience to dictate optimal health. The lunch has to be made up of 75 percent of 'green items' and 25 percent 'orange items'. Red, which symbols the unhealthiest items, means it's a no-go.
"The kids today don't like sandwiches. It's those really good, warm hearty meals that our children absolutely love and they destroy it and it's great to see. One of the favourites is mashed potatoes, gravy, and peas," Griffin says.
Schools keep an eye on the state of lunches being brought in. There are reminders that Gladwrap isn't allowed and certain biscuits breach sugar levels. But that's just the kids who are lucky enough to have lunch.
While politicking off hungry kids is a low bar, the menu has been criticised for being too PC.
National Party education spokesperson Paul Goldsmith tld The Project: "none of the lunches that I had at school would've passed muster".
"The best lunches I had were Marmite and chips. You couldn't do better than that."
But he doesn't believe free lunches need to be given to all students at a school, just the ones who need it.
"[There's been] $700 million over the next four years to provide as many lunches as they are, so I think the lunches should be better targeted to those who really need them."
But there's still chatter about waste. A food rescue outfit in Hamilton estimated 1550 school lunches are being left uneaten every week.
But unloved lunches are nothing new - most parents are familiar with the boomerang apple and the untouched sandwich.
"There's always a little bit leftover because some of our children are great eaters as in quantity, but we've got other kids who'll take it off their hands with not too many questions asked," Griffin says.
"Our responsibility is to make sure all children are well fed and they're feeling good about being at school. They've got energy levels to be successful and you can't look at the adult issues that are taking place, because it's the children who will suffer if we do nothing about it."
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