A simple homework project has turned into a philanthropic mission for one Tauranga mother and daughter who want to make sure children aren't going without lunch at school.
Tauranga Intermediate School student Paige Taylor had to do something for her community as part of a homework assignment.
One of the suggestions was making up some lunch bags for students who come to school without lunch.
Paige and her mum Susan made up 10 bags, including items such as potato chips, muesli bars, fruit and small cartons of juice that Susan was able to pick up on special in her weekly grocery shopping.
“We only had to do it the once but it was such a good feeling and when you find out how many children go to school every day without food, it tugs on the heartstrings a bit,” says Susan.
As a result, Susan and Paige have repeated the exercise and are hoping to carry on with the lunch bags, which cost about $2.50 each to make up, as often as they can.
“We usually manage four items per bag so it's a decent amount if you've got nothing. I try to make them as healthy as possible by including some fruit. I'd be happy to get one if I was hungry,” says Susan.
The Welcome Bay mum has made an appeal via the Welcome Bay Noticeboard Facebook page for donations from fruit trees, which has enjoyed some success.
“I see so many trees laden with fruit and a lot sitting on the ground and I thought ‘what a waste' so I posted on Facebook. I was able to raid a tree yesterday and got enough oranges for quite a few bags, as well as some extras which we also sent along to school,” says Susan.
Tauranga Intermediate School's special education needs coordinator (SENCO) Chris Slater says a handful of students turn up at the school's Wellness Centre looking for something to eat each day.
While the school – with a roll of close to 1300 students - receives donations of bread and has a small budget to provide basic sandwiches, it isn't enough to feed those that come without lunch.
“If it wasn't for people like Paige and Susan Taylor we would have to turn kids away because we wouldn't have enough resources to cater for them.”
Students at the school working towards honours badges also contribute one lunch per week to the Wellness Centre and the school welcomes any donations from the public.
Susan has issued a challenge for other families to do what they can.
“It's simple. Even if half of the students came along with two bags each that would go a long way. Most people can manage $4-5, that's one coffee.”
Susan says the project has been an eye-opener for 12-year-old Paige.
“She shows a lot of empathy for her peers and she doesn't like to see anyone going without. She is learning some good social skills from this.”