Catering for ākonga by ākonga
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is such a fan of Manurewa High School’s healthy lunch programme that she popped back for seconds recently.
Sara Blackburn, the school’s Hospitality and Catering teacher, says during a visit to the school last year the Prime Minister wanted to see how the Ka Ora, Ka Ako Healthy Lunches Programme was being run there as she had heard a lot of good things about it.
Last month, when the Prime Minister visited Manurewa High again to open the new library and business building, she stayed for lunch à la Healthy Lunches team. She and other guests were treated to a variey of tapa size meals, selected by Sara’s class as their favourites from the programme.
In-house catering team
While most schools out source the catering for the programme, Sara and her team of staff and ākonga do all the cooking themselves.
”We are very lucky at Manurewa High School to have the facilities we do, as well as a team behind running it. I am a chef by trade, and I then completed a teaching degree, then we have Steve Smith who is also a chef and has worked in the airline industry for many years, and Borin Kim who is also a chef training to be a teacher. I teach the Level 3 Trades Academy Hospitality class, they also work alongside the team of 15 Lunch Programme employees.”
Sara and the team also supply lunches to the neighbouring primary school.
Former students back on board
“We are so lucky to have this fantastic initiative in our kura. It’s making a positive impact on our rangatahi and their learning. I like the fact the ākonga are assisting in a real-life kitchen. This experience is real, raw and they are a part of it.
To see the ākonga sharing kai with their friends, no matter who, what, or where you are from. We cater for everyone, no matter your dietary restrictions. We have provided jobs for the local community. I am proud that we have hired five past students who have gained their chef qualifications and are now back as paid employees.
“One of the best things about self-catering is that it enables a high level of quality control. Also the students at our kura are very honest. When they don’t like something, they let us know and we take their feedback on board. And another plus of cooking the lunches ourselves is that we are able to give the students a substantial meal by cutting out the middle man.”
Positive feedback from ākonga and whānau
Sara says feedback from students and parents about the school’s lunch programme has been very positive.
“The main response from parents is ‘I wish we had this when we were at school’. Students and parents’ feedback, and suggestions are always taken on board. The feedback is often given to us via our Instagram page where we share the weekly menu.
“I hope the programme continues and other schools come on board and start doing it themselves. It’s so rewarding.”