One school’s bid for free lunches

Karamū High School in Hastings has long been advocating for inclusion in the government’s free lunches programme. Will they finally be successful in free lunches for rangatahi?

A high school in Hastings has secured a review of their eligibility status following a budget increase to the Ka Ora, Ka Ako | Healthy School Lunches programme. 

The government funded programme aims to deliver free lunches to the top 25 percent of students in schools and kura facing the most socioeconomic barriers. It provides lunch to all students in each eligible school to help reduce stigma and reach everyone in need.  

Read the Term 2 edition of School News HERE

Karamū High School is the only co-educational school in Hastings, with a medium-large roll of around 900 students. It was opened in 1962, and since then has been consistently serving the Napier-Hastings community. Until the recent switch to the equity index, the school had been characterised as a Decile 4 school, meaning it was in the top 40 percent of schools with the highest socioeconomic needs, and thus didn’t meet the eligibility threshold.  

Karamū High School was hopeful that the introduction of the Equity Index would help the kura meet the eligibility criteria for the programme, but that was not the case.   

However, Principal Dionne Thomas says that need has been steadily rising at Karamū High School, and the school is already providing free breakfast and lunch to almost 100 students daily with the support of Hastings New World and KidsCan.  

Karamu High School Support Staff Member Dana Arnott dishes up a warm casserole lunch.

Thomas said “we could not face another year without advocating on behalf of whānau and their children to be included, especially when 80 percent of students come to us from intermediate and primary schools where free lunches are provided.”  

Thomas also says that based on the school’s own data, she believes that Karamū High School should be eligible for the programme.  

“From 2019 to 2022, 77 percent of our students came from a school that was included in the healthy school lunches programme, or would have been eligible as [the programme] was not operational in 2019. In 2023 this has grown to over 80 percent.”  

As Ka Ora Ka Ako | Healthy School Lunches has secured another year of funding to 2024, Karamū High School’s application has now been given to the Ministry of Education’s finance team, who will review whether there are enough funds to include the high school in the programme.  

The next step would be to give Karamū High School’s application to the Ministry for Director of Special Projects and Hautū (Deputy Secretary) of Te Pae Aronui in the Ministry of Education for a final decision.  

For now, Thomas says “we are hopeful that common sense will prevail, and the students will be supported daily to be the best they can be.”  

Naomii Seah

Naomii Seah is a writer and journalist from Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland, Aotearoa New Zealand. She enjoys crochet, painting, and a coffee or two at the beach. Her work can be found at The Spinoff, The Pantograph Punch, Stuff, and of course, School News NZ.
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