The other morning Healthy Food Guide editor Yvonne Kerr and I dragged ourselves out of bed well before sunrise – a tad reluctantly, on my part at least – to volunteer with Eat My Lunch.
This is a new social enterprise that sells healthy lunches, delivered to your door. And for every lunch you buy, a lunch is also provided free for a child at school who otherwise wouldn’t have lunch. Simple but brilliant, right? Before the end of the first hour Yvonne and I both found ourselves hugely inspired and impressed by the wonderful people who work on this project, and the wide variety of other volunteers who give their time to help out. Last week the team made over 7300 lunches, half of which went to feeding hungry kids. Eat My Lunch is trying to raise money via a Pledge Me campaign at the moment so they can expand the project; if you can help, today’s the last day you can pledge to help them meet their target. Click here to find out more.
Whenever these kinds of projects are mentioned, the talk often turns to politics and parenting. The government should be doing more to help, some say, while others judge the parents of kids sent to school with no lunch for not being better parents or not learning how to manage their money better. That’s a shame because whatever you may think about the whys and hows and shoulds of this situation, the fact is that here in New Zealand, we have kids going to school hungry. And what Eat My Lunch does in an incredibly practical way is address that problem.
This has immediate benefits. The team behind Eat My Lunch – Lisa King, Iaan Buchanan and Michael Meredith – say they get feedback from teachers telling them how much more concentration their students have after lunch, and that they’re more focussed in their learning. Good food plays such an important role in learning and growth. Kids need the nutrients from food to help them grow up strong and healthy, develop strong bones and muscles and perform well at school. Getting a wide variety of food across the whole day is key, and the school lunch is an important part of that day. Missing out on lunch or having something with no nutrition makes life that much harder; just as for adults, a great lunch gives kids the fuel and brain power they need to get through the afternoon.
School lunches don’t need to be difficult or elaborate. There’s nothing wrong with sandwiches, fruit, yoghurt and water. The day we made lunches, the Eat my Lunch kids were getting a tuna and slaw sandwich; carrots and celery and a small sweet biscuit. If you’re stuck for inspiration, we’ve got heaps of ideas for easy and kid-friendly school lunches – have a look.