Buller District Council


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Westport North School healthy school lunches champions reusable system

Through using reusable containers Westport North School reduced their waste footprint dramatically since February 2021 as part of the Ka Ora, Ka Ako, healthy school lunches programme.

Westport North School principal Cath O’Loughlin says: “We can’t believe how much we minimised our rubbish since we started the healthy school lunches programme. Before the kids would bring in their own lunches and there were at least two items that were wrapped in single used plastic.”

North School is one out of five schools in the Buller District Council that joined the Ministry of Education’s funded healthy school lunches programme at the start of February 2021.

Local owned business Fresh Choice holds the Ministry of Education’s contract to supply around 600 lunches for Westport’s North School, South School and Granity School. The business hired the racecourse kitchen facility to prepare the lunches.

Initially the contract was for 12-months but is likely to be extended by another two years.

Fresh Choice owner Graeme Walsh says: “As part of the contract we were given waste minimisation guidelines but also received extensive guidance and advice how we can minimise waste in each part of the process; from selecting the ingredients to delivering the lunches.”

It was a journey of discovery and exploration for both parties to arrive at a good solution.

“We started providing lunches in compostable bamboo containers. They still ended up in the rubbish since they were dirty also there is a cost per container each time.”

Ms O’Loughlin emphasises: “These containers created quite a bit of rubbish and the money spent on the containers could have gone to kid’s lunches.”

Both parties met to find a better alternative, considering options like metal containers which proved to be too expensive.

“The best solution was to use a plastic container that is washable and can be used repeatedly. These containers can be filled with hot and cold food and are returned, washed and sterilized after each lunch, to go out the next day.”

Having this system implanted for a few months it proves that the containers pay for themselves after three uses and they last longer. Implementing a reusable container achieved reduced waste as well as being cost effective.

North School extended the minimisation principle even further partnering with Buller High School’s breakfast club.

Ms O’Loughlin says: “Once lunch is over, the containers are collected, and any leftover reusable food is passed on to the breakfast club. It is a bit of work to collect the containers, pack the leftover food into boxes, and deliver them to the breakfast club but it is worth it and the waste reduction we have experienced is dramatic.”

Any food that can’t be passed on goes into pig buckets that are picked up daily. The children still have to bring their own morning tea which is mainly fruit which generates very little rubbish.

Thinking about waste also starts influences what ingredients to use Mr Walsh points out.

“A few weeks in, we started to provide hot lunches which use less ingredients hence produce less waste. We think about implanting reduce, reuse and recycle principles through the whole process.”

Ms O’Loughlin is motivated and hopes that if reducing waste through reduce, reuse and recycle choices at school will prompt parents to reduce waste, choose reusable alternatives, and recycle right at home and at work.

Plastic Free July is a great and fun way to explore what alternatives are available and change habits. To join Plastic Free July and get involved go to wwww.plasticfreejuly.org.

For more info about rubbish and recycling, and how to minimise waste in Buller go to www.bullerdc.govt.nz.

The Ka Ora, Ka Ako program was announced in 2019 as a two-year program to trail providing free and nutritional school lunches to Years 1-8 (primary and intermediate aged) students.

This program is delivered in schools which rank amongst the top 25% of socio-economic disadvantaged in New Zealand as well as in areas where children face the greatest barriers accessing education, wellbeing and achievement.

The Ka Ora, Ka Ako program aims to reduce food insecurity by providing access to a nutritious lunch every day.  It was first launched in 42 schools in the Bay of Plenty/Waiariki and Hawke’s Bay/Tairāwhiti in February 2020. It was extended and now includes other schools, five of which are in the Buller District.

The contract for lunch providers like Fresh Choice, includes strict guidelines to ensure a small waste footprint, like banning soft plastic for packaging.

28 June 2021


For more information please contact

Westport North School principal
Cath O’Loughlin


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