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Guideline 2: Getting started and resourcing the programme

This guideline looks at how to create partnerships with members of the community and businesses to provide your programme with funding, consumables, and volunteers.

Funding and contributions can come from a variety of sources, such as local or national funding grants, community sponsorship, families and whānau, private funding, relationships with business, or any combination of these things.

Whether your school is eligible for government and charitable funding (that is, KidsCan or KickStart Breakfast) or intending to run a programme independently, you must find ways of funding and sourcing food and other resources, as well as volunteers to run the programmes.

Before you pitch, plan

School leadership plays a vital role in starting the process for finding funding and resources for the programme. The principal can take the lead or nominate a person responsible to convene a group of volunteers to form a committee. This could include a combination of other staff members, parents, and members from local community groups such as Lions, Rotary, marae, and churches. 

Be sure to include students on the committee – they can be invaluable in assisting with organising and publicising your programme.

The fact that students are part of the project is a key selling point when approaching sponsors.

Develop a transparent and open process for making decisions about developing your food programme. Be clear about what you are considering or proposing to do so that everyone understands what the school is trying to achieve through the programme. School leaders will have to ensure the people who run the programme have sufficient time and resources to review their work and the programme’s outcomes.

Before you approach community organisations and businesses for support and funding, your committee needs to make a clearly defined proposal of your programme that explains:

  • why you are doing it – what problem you are trying to solve
  • the benefits and intended outcomes of the programme – what will change as a result (long and short term)
  • what the programme will look like – breakfast, lunch, gardening, other activities
  • who will be involved – volunteers from the community, family, staff, students
  • where the programme will be held – at your school, community centre, church hall
  • how will you know you’ve made a difference (evaluation)
  • what you are wanting (funding, equipment, consumables) – and the figures and quantities
  • where you intend to get your food from – government and charitable funding, donations from business, or as part of the school budget
  • how partners can be involved and recognised – attend events, public acknowledgment.

This will not only make your programme more robust, but will make it more attractive to potential community and business sponsors. Businesses and community organisations want to know that the programme will be safe and will benefit children.

An on-going feature of organising and running your programme will be to have a communication plan that clearly informs parents, whānau, and the community of the goals of the programme and how you believe it will improve your students’ educational outcomes. Make all the potential benefits for students and the school community clear. Explain how you will know if the programme is achieving these goals, and what everyone involved in the programme (students, whānau, staff, business partners and so on) needs to do to make it successful.

Identifying and approaching potential partners

Once you have a clearly defined proposal for your programme, then your committee can start approaching potential partners. Delegate members to approach different community groups and businesses.

National programmes

Your school may qualify for the support of national programmes, so it is important to investigate the eligibility that they have, and the food and services that they supply. Starting here may help identify the additional support you may need from community groups to further enhance your programme. Eligibility may change over time, so check out the programme website for the most accurate information:

  • KickStart Breakfast – a national programme supplying Fonterra Anchor milk and Sanitarium Weetbix for breakfast. All schools across all deciles are eligible, including teen parent units and Alternative Education providers
  • Fonterra Milk for Schools – a nationwide programme that supplies free milk to all primary schools (Years 1-6)
  • KidsCan – a national charity that supplies equipment and food for breakfast and lunch programmes, as well as supplying items to address other student needs, such as raincoats, shoes, and head lice treatment.

The local community

Your local community is a great source of support, as parental and whānau support and contributions can come in many forms. There may be a number of willing volunteers within a school community, so it is a matter of taking the time to find them. This could be done in a variety of ways, for example:

  • getting key players in the school community to raise awareness through word of mouth
  • doing a letter box drop in the local community
  • talking to local services such as community centres, marae, and churches
  • placing advertisements in your local newspaper
  • getting the word out through your school newsletter, Facebook page or website.

Parents, whānau, community youth workers, and mentors can be given the opportunity to volunteer and take leadership roles, such as making and serving the food, or donating and delivering food items.

You may wish to approach local churches to help with funding, consumables, or services. Church halls can provide alternative venues for hosting food programmes and events if you don’t have sufficient space or facilities. Churches and charities can also be good sources of volunteer services.

There may be retirees in your community looking for opportunities for social interaction who have cooking and gardening skills that they would love to pass on. 

Ask students and parents to talk to their grandparents and older neighbours, approach senior citizen clubs and organisations.

Community groups and organisations

Meet with key people in your community to discuss your ideas, such as community board members, Rotary and Lions Clubs, councillors, the chamber of commerce, Iwi leaders etc. Even if they do not have the ability to support your project themselves, they will usually be happy to point you in the direction of others who can.

Different groups and organisations in the community will be able to help you in different ways:

  • A local Lions Club or similar charity could provide funding for set up costs such as toasters, tables, linen and dishes.
  • Local community health experts such as your DHB or Health Centre, or other national organisations with regional branches such as the Heart FoundationHealth Promoting Schools, or Diabetes New Zealand can give you advice on nutrition, accommodating students with allergies or illnesses, and even funding/resource support.
  • Media outlets (newspapers and radio stations) are good for getting word out about your programme, as is social media.


Generating links with businesses can support the sustainability of your programme. Supermarkets, bakeries, and grocery shops can donate and deliver on-going consumables such as spreads, porridge, bread, and milk.

Businesses and other organisations are also excellent sources of information about other funding or partnership options available. For example, a bread supplier may have an existing distribution link with a milk or fruit supplier who may be a good partner for your project.

There could be businesses whose products or services are unrelated to food which could still help your programme, such as logistics and advertising. If one of your goals is to start a school garden for example, approach gardening and DIY stores to get materials and funding.

Carefully consider who you partner with and how that partnership could reinforce or undermine classroom learning about food and nutrition. For example you would not want a fast food company as a sponsor, even if they can provide bread or cereal for a breakfast programme, as publicising your relationship would send inconsistent or confusing messages about making healthy food choices.

Communicating benefits for business

As mentioned earlier you need to have a clearly defined plan and objectives for your programme. If you communicate the aims of your school food programme and its potential benefits for business, then local businesses are more likely to appreciate the benefits of supporting you. Ultimately, they will want to know what’s in it for them. Businesses always appreciate good (and free!) press.

Approaching a local bakery, for example, not only creates goodwill within a community, but can also offer a business the opportunity to build consumer loyalty from the sponsorship of such a programme. Being known as "that bakery" that donates bread to the local school is great "press".

It can also foster a stronger culture within its own organisation by inviting staff to get involved in the school food programme. This is a way in which businesses can feel they are "giving back" to the community in a practical and valuable way.

Tips for approaching potential partners

  • Engage by word of mouth, through parents who work for businesses and through your local business associations. Try to meet with people in person rather than just by phone, email or mail. Your plan or project will be more appealing if the idea explained to them by the people behind it. Follow up potential partners’ enquiries promptly.
  • Get the word out. Ask for a free editorial in your local paper or community newsletter. Approach local radio stations to see if you can make an on-air advertisement or sweeper for your programme.
  • Always read the fine print when applying for money from grants and trusts as they will usually have specific requirements. Be aware that some funding sources may take months to be achieved. If you need to report on how you have spent the funds as a condition of the grant, build the reporting deadlines into your planning.
  • Just go out and ask! Partnerships are waiting in the community – business, non-governmental organisations, non-profit organisations, and others just need to be asked to help in specific ways. The biggest factor in getting others involved is the asking. The worst that can happen is that they say no, but many will be willing and eager to help.
  • Think about food safety. If you are going to source donated food from the community or businesses, you must ensure that the food has not passed its use-by date and has been properly cooked / stored when donated. For more details, see the Ministry for Primary Industries Donated Food Guidance. Useful tips that are especially relevant to people selling or raffling food for fundraising purposes are also contained in Fundraising & community events.

 Your local council will also be happy to offer you guidance and clarification of regulations.

Maintaining partnerships over time

Building a secure partnership with sponsors will ensure sustainability of your food programme. This starts with a written agreement between your school and your partners that outlines what you will do for them and what they have agreed to do for you. It is important for both parties to set clear and concise expectations before the partnership is solidified.

Record key information such as attendance and produce informative feedback for your sponsors. Make sure you meet with your partners and sponsors, even if it is only annually, to review your relationship and renew agreements.

Publically thank and recognise a business or community group that supports your school through your newsletter or website. Allow your partners to promote your school and its achievements in their newsletters and staff communications.

Overall benefits from partnerships

Food can help bring your school community together. At one primary school the Children’s Commissioner’s Office spoke with, all parents were invited to join together for an evening meal provided by the school. The school also hosts regular breakfasts to recognise key events such as White Ribbon Day. Involving children in the organisation of these events is a great way for school community to connect with each other.

Having volunteers supporting your programme has reciprocal benefits – many volunteers get great satisfaction out of supporting others in their community, sharing their knowledge and skills, and meeting new people.

Food is also a great vehicle for learning about cultural beliefs, values and traditions. New Zealand is becoming more and more multicultural and with this comes opportunities to understand and value each unique culture, and to ensure everyone feels a sense of belonging in their community. Food programmes can be a vehicle for exploring all the unique cultures that make up your school community.