Free lunches for school children at a low decile Rotorua intermediate school have made a "massive difference" according to the school's principal.
Phil Palfrey, Principal of Kaitao Intermediate in Western Heights, says the staff had been overjoyed by the changes the lunch programme had made to their pupils.
"We are delighted with the behaviour of the children, with their attendance, and just their general attitude around the school. It is significantly different, and I hope it continues for a very long time. We are very excited about it and really, really happy.”
In April last year, the Government announced a free lunch trial programme to be rolled out across 30 schools for children in Year 1 to 8 from term one this year, aiming to feed up to 21,000 kids in 120 schools by 2021.
The benefits of the programme goes well beyond just providing food for his kids according to Mr Palfrey.
"One particular child said they would be able to come to school now on Mondays because they used to just leave Mondays out because they didn’t have any food."
He says another student told him her parents no longer have to apply for loans in order to pay the power bill as they aren't having to worry about providing food.
Previously, Mr Palfrey's deputy principal would make peanut butter sandwiches and hand them out to students everyday to prevent them going hungry.
"I am so surprised about how many of them have commented to me that it actually makes a difference. I thought intermediate aged children would perhaps be a little bit naïve about the things that happen in their homes, but they certainly are not."
Within the first three weeks of the programme he says there has been a significant difference in students and his school and says he hopes the programme will continue.