JANICE Lee’s dream to roll out the Koha Kai model to other communities is in the process of being realised, with Waiau Area School in Tuatapere set to trial the Lunches in Schools Programme next term.
“It is going to be really exciting,” Mrs Lee said.
However, there was also some apprehension because it was the first time the programme had been introduced to another community, she said.
“This is a low-risk way of finding out how robust our model is, and where weaknesses may exist in our systems.
“We are confident in our model and we know it works because we are already achieving the outcomes, but we have never done it at a distance before.”
Mrs Lee said the trial was another step towards her goal to roll the initiative out nationwide, but government funding would be needed.
“This is the test for us so we can prove our model is robust enough to go anywhere.
“We are trying to create so much noise that Wellington will hear us and get behind our programme.”
The social enterprise charity offers people aged 18 and over who have been isolated by disability the opportunity to learn hospitality and horticultural skills. Koha Kai is a pathway to employment through its Lunches in Schools Programme, preparing lunches for school children in low-decile schools, and its Community Gardens Programme.
Mrs Lee said the Tuatapere trial would be run solely by volunteers led by Zara Erskine, and when it proved successful Koha Kai would look at how it would be able to fund the team leader position.
“We have got to do [the trial] at no cost to Koha Kai because we have no funding for this.”
Mrs Lee said the opportunity arose after she was contacted by Tuatapere health nurse Keri Potter, who said the community needed a programme like Koha Kai’s to support the community.
There was a high level of unemployment in the area and there were people with disabilities in the community who were isolated, she said.
Waiau Area School is a decile three school with a roll of 103 pupils from Years 1 to 13.
Principal Andrew Pardoe-Burnett welcomed the programme to the school.
“There is a need. There is poverty out there. Children are hungry,” he said.
“We could [provide lunches] alone, but it takes manpower away from the teachers, and it is nice to [work with] an organisation with a really good cause… who can make it happen at an affordable price.”
The school also planned to establish a vegetable garden, with chickens and sheep aligned with the school’s horticulture and agriculture classes, which would provide produce for the Lunches in Schools Programme, he said.
“There are so many win-win aspects.”
The teaching staff, pupils and community were creating a “positive vibe” within the school and the Koha Kai programme would “galvanise the school even more”, Mr Pardoe-Burnett said.