Formative evaluation of the New Zealand Healthy School Lunches programme
Food insecurity is a real issue for many children in New Zealand. Published results from the New Zealand health survey in 2015/16 (Ministry of Health, 2019) showed that approximately 19% of children in New Zealand lived in households with moderate to severe food insecurity (i.e. they lacked access to sufficient amounts of nutritionally adequate and safe foods). Due to structural and systemic problems such as poverty and inequality, children from Māori and Pacific households are disproportionately affected by food insecurity. Further, with increasing numbers of families/whānau experiencing unemployment and receiving job seeker support since March 2020, it is expected that food insecurity will become even more pronounced in New Zealand.
Kā Ora, Kā Ako | the healthy school lunches programme is an initiative by the New Zealand Government to reduce food insecurity by providing access to free, nutritious lunches for all learners at participating schools and kura daily. The whole-school programme targets schools and kura with the highest concentrations of learners from disadvantaged backgrounds. The programme is intended to ensure not only that nutritious food is available to learners every day, but that the food (quality, quantity and variety) promotes learners’ consumption by being appealing. It was expected that this will lead to improved school attendance as well as improved diet and nutrition for learners , and therefore greater food security and wellbeing.
The evaluation was set out in two phases to accommodate different information needs as the delivery model matured over time. During the first phase, the evaluation focused on building an awareness of the process, while answering questions about efficacy and cost-effective of the delivery models while delivery was underway and the design was being refined. A series of case studies were used, focussing on the contextual elements relevant to programme delivery at each school while allowing comparability across different delivery models.
Evidence was captured and discussed with key stakeholders throughout the early implementation of the programme, using evidence to inform decision making and support the overall success of the programme.