Going to school with limited food in their lunch box was a reality for some children in Mid Canterbury, until Kai for Kids Charitable Trust was established.
Kai for Kids founder Jo Taylor saw a need and, knowing the abundance of healthy food grown in the district, decided to address the issue of children not having enough or any food which impacted their ability to learn.
In Mid Canterbury 40 per cent of households have food insecurities.
The reality is 19 per cent of children are going with out three nutritious meals a day or are eating cheap non nutritious meals.
There are parents going without so as to provide for their children.
‘‘Some families are living under constant stress where the next meal will come from,’’ Jo said.
‘‘There was afamily of three children going to school with a packet of potato chips to share between them for their lunch,’’ she said.
The pilot programme of Kai for Kids was at Netherby School in 2020. The programme has since been extended to Hampstead and Chertsey schools, Merle Leask and Hampstead Kindergarten. The lunches are provided to all children at the school.
A small number of meals are provided to students at Ashburton Borough and Allenton schools and going forward some students at Ashburton College and Ashburton Intermediate School will receive lunches.
In 2022, there were 102,000 lunches provided to local children. During the peak of covid in Mid Canterbury the trust provided 3000 meals to those isolating.
The lunches are made at the Ashburton Racecourse, packaged and sent to the schools who distribute them. The meals recognise the cultural and dietary needs of students and are nutritious.
Jo said ‘‘it is surprising how vegetables can be disguised.’’
At least two meals a week are hot and this increases in winter.
A team of paid and volunteer staff prepare the meals, package them up and deliver them to schools.
Staff member Karina Webb said ‘‘I really enjoy the work and the kids are so grateful and thankful.’’
The programme has been further extended to include platters of baking for morning teas in some schools.
Kai for Kids is about minimising waste so the containers are recycled.
On a Tuesday night ‘Chop and Chat’ is a great way for those working to help out, come together to assist in food preparation and baking.
Kitchen manager Michelle said ‘‘it might seem a little thing for the person doing the preparation but it makes ahuge difference to the team making the meals.’’
Those wanting to take part in chop and chat can head to the racecourse on Tuesdays from 4pm til 6.30pm.
Volunteers are always needed to help wash dishes from12 noon on a weekday at the racecourse.
Donations of goods, fruit and vegetables are always welcome and can be dropped off at the racecourse on weekday mornings.
For staff member Sara Peacock ‘‘seeing the kids so grateful with happy faces and knowing I am helping out those less fortunate than me, pulls at my heart and that is why I work here.’’
Going without food and certainly the right food impacts on a students ability to learn. Since Kai for Kids has been going to into schools, teachers have noticed a positive change in young peoples ability to concentrate and learn.