Social enterprise Nourish Ōraka launched its full-service lunch distribution on May 3 this year.
The Ministry of Education introduced the Ka Ora, Ka Ako healthy school lunches programme for disadvantaged schools in 2019.
The aim of the programme is to provide access to nutritious lunch every day for each student. The name Ka Ora, Ka Ako is about keeping in good health and wellbeing, so that a child can be in the best place to learn.
When Shirley Primary School was offered different versions of the scheme, board member Rebecca Roper-Gee said she thought it would be a good option to invest in a version that would invest back into the community, as $350,000 would be made a year in profit.
Roper-Gee and co-director Phillipa Weir started Nourish Ōraka to encourage local employment.
"Our purpose is community development, providing employment, and community connection," Roper-Gee said.
Roper-Gee and Weir were granted start-up funding for Nourish Ōraka from The Lottery Community Grant Fund.
Ten workers are employed, and lunch-workers are paid a living wage as per the Ministry's requirement. A handful of community volunteers give their time every day to help wash lunchboxes as they wait for a commercial dishwasher to be installed.
Nourish Ōraka has committed to not using single-use packaging and drops off food scraps daily to the Shirley Community Garden.
The service also accommodates special dietary requirements of students and sources fruit and vegetables from local suppliers to ensure what it provides is fresh.
The lunch workers make 345 lunches every day, with 14 going to the teachers at Shirley Primary School.
"It's just a kind gesture, as we really appreciate them," Roper-Gee said.
Waipapa/Papanui-Innes Comunity Board Chairperson Emma Norrish said the benefits to the Shirley community were already apparent.
"Not only are the students receiving healthy lunches every day, but it is creating employment opportunities for locals," Norrish said. "It is great to hear that a number of the staff already employed are school parents who have had the barriers of travel and hours overcome by being able to work locally and within school hours".
With no income on teacher-only days and during school holidays, Nourish Ōraka hopes to cater for other events around the community in the future.