Local dairy products help Taranaki school beat the lunch program blues

A rural Taranaki school under the taxpayer-funded lunch program managed to stick with a local dairy.

Coastal Taranaki School partnered with Okato Four Square at the start of the second semester to provide school meals as part of the government’s Ka Ora, Ka Ako lunch program.

Principal Scott Walden said that while the school was initially reluctant to join the program, the program has been a huge success.

Liam Hooker slips into a bacon, egg and kumara rosti burger prepared for his lunch at the Four Square across from his school.

ANDY JACKSON / stuff

Liam Hooker slips into a bacon, egg and kumara rosti burger prepared for his lunch at the Four Square across from his school.

Unlike some schools across the country, meals were a hit with students and there was little problem with uneaten breakfasts.

“It’s really not a problem because of the way we manage engagement and communications with the external vendor,” he said.

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The school had added pigs to their farm just in case trash was a problem, but they had worked with Four Square owners Wendy and Craig Fleming to provide meals for students ages 1 to 13 to eat.

The coastal school of Taranaki uses its local Okato Four Square for lunch as part of the Ka Ora program, Ka Ako food in schools.  Principal Scott Walden says it's been a success and college students Liam, 11, and Lara Smith, 11, agree.

ANDY JACKSON / stuff

The coastal school of Taranaki uses its local Okato Four Square for lunch as part of the Ka Ora program, Ka Ako food in schools. Principal Scott Walden says it’s been a success and college students Liam, 11, and Lara Smith, 11, agree.

“There is the ability in the Ka Ora plan, Ka Ako to determine your menu, it is not predetermined by the ministry,” Walden said.

“And Wendy and Craig are always looking for feedback on food.”

The menus are accompanied by a meat-based or vegetarian main course, a snack and a piece of fruit every day.

On Tuesday, the students enjoyed a bacon, egg and kumara rosti burger, apple crisps, a tangerine, with 11-year-old Lara Smith and Liam Hooker praising the meal.

“It’s really good,” said Lara, “the best yet.”

Okato Four Square, owned by Wendy and Craig Fleming, provides all school lunches at the nearby Coastal Taranaki School.

ANDY JACKSON / stuff

Okato Four Square, owned by Wendy and Craig Fleming, provides all school lunches at the nearby Coastal Taranaki School.

The Ka Ora, Ka Ako program was first rolled out to primary schools with high needs in 2019 and now 199,501 students in New Zealand are benefiting from it.

Last week, a Hamilton food rescue organization, Kaivolution, estimated that there could be up to 1,500 lunches left by the city’s schools on each day of the program.

CHRISTEL YARDLEY / STUFF

Hamilton Community Center Director Neil Tolan is grateful for leftover meals from the government Ka Ora school meal program, Ka Ako, as is Kaivolution who helps distribute meals at night shelters and women’s shelters.

Walden admitted that the odd menu didn’t always suit younger students, but they always tried the food and whatever was left went to the pigs.

“Therefore, I saw some tomatoes in the bushes as I walked around the school on duty.”

Walden’s advice to other principals who wanted to join the program or who were fighting food waste was to stay with your local.

“It's really good,” Lara said of the burger, adding that it was the best lunch yet.

ANDY JACKSON / stuff

“It’s really good,” Lara said of the burger, adding that it was the best lunch yet.

“The options that were given to us as potential suppliers were all big business ventures,” he said.

“A local supplier who invests in the school and in its community, where there is a good relationship and good communication, I think that’s really essential.”

Wendy said working with the school to provide lunches for over 500 students was going well.

“It’s about nurturing the community, keeping it simple and healthy,” she said.


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