Budget 2020: Government expands school lunch programme from 8000 to 200,000

The Government has announced an expansion of the school lunch program as part of New Zealand's 2020 $50 billion budget.

Currently, 8000 students get access to healthy lunches provided at school each day, which will increase to 200,000 by the end of Term 3 2021.

 The new funding will be targeted at students in schools with the highest disadvantage and aims to create job opportunities as well.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says many New Zealanders are struggling with financial pressures from the pandemic, and the budget will provide increased support for families.

"We started this programme last year, now we expand healthy lunches in schools so that around 200,000 more children across the country benefit. Based on what we know, this will also create an estimated 2000 jobs in local communities. And equally important it will mean in the tough days ahead we can guarantee our most vulnerable kids will get a filling, healthy lunch every school day."

She says it can significantly improve a child's education.

"A full stomach makes all the difference to a child's learning."

Education Minister Chris Hipkins says $216.7 million in operating and $3.9 million in capital expenditure has been allocated over the next two years to fund the lunches.

"The expansion will build on the current phased rollout, which is on track to deliver free healthy school lunches for up to 21,000 students in Years 1-8 by the end of this year," he says.

"The scale of expansion means work is needed to prepare and scale-up during Term 3, including hiring local people and building systems and processes that reduce compliance costs on providers and improve data security."

Eat Right Be Bright founder Clarissa Mackay has called the funding boost "a major step forward for the children of Aotearoa/New Zealand".

"The expansion of the school lunch initiative by $220 million can ensure that every child in our country has the chance to succeed at school and in life," Mackay says.

"This development wouldn't have been possible without the many groups in New Zealand highlighting the need for better social safety nets and a government that has taken this historical step forward.    

 "We now need the government to focus on the implementation of this initiative, ensuring we have a strong foundation to build a successful programme. The coming weeks and months will be critical in establishing a knowledgeable and capable team to ensure success."

E tū Assistant National Secretary Annie Newman says from the announcement there is a lot for workers to celebrate.

Newman says it will help people like Auckland Council cleaner Meleane Moala to be able to give children "healthy" lunches, which is not always financially possible.

"Low paid workers have always depended on social services and support because their wages are insufficient for them to live a decent life. The big investment in food in schools and housing are critical pieces of the puzzle."