When children come to school hungry or when they eat or drink fatty and sugary food, their health and their school performance both suffer.
Nutritious food gives students more focus and energy at school so they learn better, and also it lowers the risk that they become overweight or get diseases like diabetes later in life.
Last year Sarah Turpitt, Tokoroa Hospital Food and Environmental Services manager started a Ka Pai Kai school lunches “pilot” scheme in Tokoroa, partnering with Amisfield Primary School and its principal Bex Kilgour.
Sarah and Bex developed a menu of nutritious and appealing lunches that low income families can order at an affordable price and that meet the national guidelines for school food programmes. The lunches are prepared at the Tokoroa Hospital kitchen and delivered to the school.
The pilot scheme has proved popular with families and the children, and Sarah is keen to see it expand. There is a growing interest from nearby schools.
That’s where Waikato DHB’s Population Health team comes in. It’s staff will work with Sarah, the school and the community to evaluate Ka Pai Kai in terms of nutritional benefits and what the school students themselves think about it. Other important factors will be to reduce costs so the food is very affordable, and assess the ability to cope as demand grows.
DHB health promoters, who already work with local schools, will be doing a lot of the ground work. They will be looking for opportunities to talk to the community and the local iwi about the scheme and its potential, and hopefully collaborate with them in developing it further.
Project manager Zaynel Sushil says follow up measures will be taken at the end of term 1 and a longitudinal study will follow students through the primary school to see if Ka Pai Kai influenced their behaviour and their families towards nutrition.
“If that is the case, we are doing a lot more good than just giving the students a healthy lunch.”
Concurrently, Kai Pai Kai will take ‘the whole of school approach’ by promoting healthy school food policies and building health literacy – just some of the other components of Ka Pai Kai.
“The overall aim is to see Ka Pai Kai reach other parts of South Waikato, and also to showcase the success of Ka Pai Kai as a model for other schools to adopt,” he says.
A community meeting will be held in Tokoroa at the end of April/early May 2016 and those interested in contributing to the programme’s future in some way, as an agency, business or as an individual are welcome to attend. The date will be advised soon.