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Good News Stories / December 2, 2021

Kiwifruit for Schools’ programme

Students tuck into kiwifruit after a delivery at Glenbrook School.

Kids get a healthy boost as Punchbowl’s kiwifruit for schools’ programme proves ever more popular

By James Smith

They are super nutritious and super delicious and it seems kids just can’t get enough of them.

When packhouse and orchard management company Punchbowl PackCo Ltd began sending its reject fruit to local schools it was the beginning of a community initiative that’s just gone from strength to strength.

From its small beginnings in 2019, Punchbowl’s Kiwifruit for Schools programme now distributes hundreds of kilos of kiwifruit each year. And the initiative has resonated throughout the South Auckland community.

Between May and November kiwifruit, which does not meet the required standard for commercial purposes, is boxed up and delivered fortnightly to schools. The free fruit is distributed by two volunteer organisations to about 30 primary and intermediate schools, including a few kindergartens.

In the first year, about five pallets of fruit were sent out to schools. It was followed by 16 pallets in 2020, with this year 18 pallets being set aside.

Such is the programme’s popularity, Punchbowl has received many heart-warming cards, poems and notes of gratitude from children and teachers throughout the greater Franklin District.

Nikki Craig, the company’s general manager post-harvest, said they were delighted to repurpose the substandard fruit, much of which had been trucked to a nearby dairy farm for cattle feed.

“It’s was pretty hard watching those trucks go by with all that reject kiwifruit. We wanted to come up with a good solution for that fruit. We thought this was an amazing opportunity to give back to the community.”

The seeds of the initiative were sown when Grace van den Brink, a local charity volunteer who was also working in Punchbowl’s packhouse at the time, dropped off some kiwifruit to View Road School, in Waiuku, giving the school’s breakfast for schools programme a fruit-filled boost.

“The following year, although now not employed by Punchbowl, Grace asked again for fruit,” says Nikki. “So we thought we would have a ring around of the other local schools to see if they were interested in receiving kiwifruit and this is how Kiwifruit for Schools was born.”

As well as schools, local charities also receive fruit to distribute. Waiuku has a community garden and kiwifruit is left in their outdoor pantry for families to help themselves.

Grace, a volunteer at the Waiuku-based charity Te Marama Hou Ministries Trust, is still involved in the programme and drops off boxes of kiwifruit to schools in the locality.

“It’s so good to promote something that’s so healthy for kids,” she says. “There’s a lot of vitamin C in kiwifruit and it’s very nutritious. That must be good for their young brains so that they are able to concentrate on their school work.

“I’m just thankful that Punchbowl is allowing kids to get kiwifruit free of charge and we are so grateful that we can give it out in this way.”

Malcolm Laurence, principal of Pukeoware  School, said students couldn’t get enough of the nutritious fruit. “Our kids love having kiwifruit. They are very, very popular, they all grab for them. They just love eating kiwifruit, which is really great!’’

One of the letters of thanks Punchbowl received was from Stella, a pupil at View Road School, Waiuku.

“Thank you so much for sending us the juicy fruit,” she wrote. “We really appreciate all you have done for us as some people in our school don’t have enough money to buy fruit, so this really helped us.

“Also the kiwifruit is very healthy for our bodies, so that means you are helping students eat healthier. So we just want to say thank you for everything.”

Recently two of Punchbowl’s business suppliers jumped on board to add their support to the programme. “This year we have partnered with Opal, our packaging supplier, who have donated the printed boxes and these are packed at a special shift dedicated to the programme,” says Nikki.

“Along with that, our local stationery supplier Action Office Products, Waiuku, donated 2,000 stickers to be handed out to the children when they take their kiwifruit.”

When Auckland went into the recent Level 4 lockdown it meant schools had to close. But steps were quickly put in place to ensure the fruit Punchbowl had earmarked for its schools’ programme didn’t go to waste. It was supplied to local food banks and maraes and some schools also collected kiwifruit for their families who were most in need.

“We have also had one of our cool stores commandeered for a group of volunteers to make up around 700 food parcels each week to be distributed in the local Papakura area,” says Nikki.

“One of our local lease orchard owners is heavily involved with this programme and we are fortunate enough that we can help this cause by providing the space to pack these parcels and make use of the kiwifruit set aside for the schools to go in these packs.

“The Kai box project has ended up delivering more than 200,000 meals as of a couple of weeks ago. They started at 700 boxes of food but that increased rapidly.”

New Zealand Kiwifruit Growers Inc CEO Colin Bond praised Punchbowl for its fruit for schools’ programme.

“We are very supportive of this initiative to fill young stomachs with our tasty and healthy fruit, grown right here in New Zealand,” he said.

“This a great sustainability exercise and excellent exposure to our iconic industry. Not only is the classic kiwifruit a central piece of Kiwiana, but it’s a strong contributor to New Zealand’s economy, delivering over $2.2 billion last year.”

There are 114 kiwifruit orchards in the Auckland region growing 660 hectares of the green, gold and red varieties.

                                                           

Students at Pukeoware School can’t get enough of the fruit.                 Enjoying a sweet treat at Glenbrook School.