While in Whangarei last week, I had the pleasure of meeting Buddhi Manta from the Hare Krishna movement whose cafe is making lunch for some schools in Whangarei. His group have been feeding up to 1,000 primary school kids at local schools for the past two years. The hot and healthy food has been provided to the schools for $1.00 per child one day per week. The schools pay $1.00 and the Hare Krishna group make up the difference with their fundraising. The difference this makes is not just satisfying hungry kids but also building a culture of shared food and the value of vegetables. Parents and teachers see the difference in children who can focus on learning and some are less violent and distracted just because they are getting proper food. Buddhi said it was quite new for many kids to eat rice and vegetable dishes but they have now embraced it, he said custard is always the favourite dessert and salads are surprisingly popular.
There are many models for school lunches but the Hare Krishna team with a strong volunteer culture and very low overheads are meeting a need in low decile schools. They would like to expand to the smaller towns of the north and five days a week because they know the need is there. Buddhi has it all planned including volunteer drivers and clean energy transport but needs some Government help to expand. He says the main benefit of school lunch is not helping individual children, as the whole school gets the lunch, it is about valuing food and eating together. This builds a community in a school and it teaches everyone that healthy food and sharing a table makes for a happier environment.
There is no doubt that school lunch is needed and the Greens school hubs policy is committed to it. How that food is provided is the decision of local schools and communities but efforts like this food programme could be a great option for some schools. We think the Government should pay for that lunch and then all our children will get fed literally and socially. Let’s support the school lunch champions and feed the kids!