School lunch programme launched

  • Rt Hon Jacinda Ardern
  • Hon Tracey Martin
Prime Minister Child Poverty Reduction Children

Children in 30 primary and intermediate schools will begin receiving a free lunch every school day from term one next year, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced today.

The Government’s prototype school lunch programme will initially roll out to all Year 1-8 pupils in 30 schools that will be part of a trial, extending to 21,000 children in 120 schools by the beginning of 2021.

The Prime Minister announced the programme at the launch of the Child and Youth Wellbeing Strategy with Children’s Minister Tracey Martin at Kaitao Intermediate School in Rotorua today.

“That is a pure and simple issue. Do we want our kids to go hungry? The obvious answer is no. That’s why the Government is rolling this school lunch programme out to the kids in New Zealand who need our support the most,” Jacinda Ardern said.

“Children themselves told us during the consultation on the strategy that going to school hungry was a barrier to their learning. That was heart-breaking to hear and this prototype starts to ensure children are fed and have the best chance to succeed.

“Fixing all the things that cause child poverty will take time but one thing we can do straight away is make sure kids get at least one decent meal a day.

“The lunch in schools programme is another initiative that will contribute to the Government’s pledge to reduce the impacts of poverty on children and make New Zealand the best place in the world to be a child.

“You simply can’t learn distracted by an empty stomach.

“Many families in New Zealand struggle to provide enough food for their children. A healthy lunch every day will help to alleviate one of the worst aspects of deprivation for kids – hunger,” Jacinda Ardern said.

The free school lunches’ programme is one of 75 initiatives which form the New Zealand’s Child and Youth Wellbeing Strategy which was launched today.

Other key priorities in the strategy include:

  • Reducing child poverty and mitigating the impacts of poverty and socio-economic disadvantage
  • Better support for children and young people in care and addressing family and sexual violence
  • Better support to children and young people with greater needs, with an initial focus on learning support and mental wellbeing.

“This plan was developed with input from 10,000 New Zealanders – including over 6000 children and young people, who told us what makes for a good life and what gets in the way,” Minister for Children Tracey Martin said. 

“One of those things is fragmented government services and a key role of the strategy will be to make departments deliver frontline services in ways that involve local communities and work better for children and their families.

“The strategy provides a list of initiatives to materially improve the lives of children and their families and make the experience of growing up better too. A large number of initiatives are already in place and others, such as Free Lunches in Schools are to be trialled or developed.

“A huge focus on the strategy is to support families and children who are at risk of harm. We have already made a significant investment of over $1 billion dollars into actions to improve the care system, support families and better care for those children and young people.

“Reducing child poverty is a key goal of this Government and the $5.5 billion Families Package and initiatives in the Wellbeing Budget will raise 50,000-74,000 children out of poverty. We know there’s more to do, especially in housing and ensuring more people can move into sustainable well paid jobs to take the pressure off families.

“Children also told us that they experience racism, bullying and discrimination and these things get in the way of them leading a good life. They are looking to us to find ways to help them overcome these barriers.

“The strategy is a blue print for action. Delivery on all the actions will help make sure New Zealand is the best place in the world be a child,” Tracey Martin said.

For more information about the Free Lunches in Schools programme see

For more information about the Child and youth Wellbeing strategy, see