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The programme is being introduced in stages, and this is the first time it has come to the South, Education Minister Chris Hipkins said.
Eleven schools had already begun serving lunches, and seven were preparing to start during term 3.
This was in addition to the 42 other schools already taking part around the country, he said.
The programme was expanded in the Budget this year, to allow about 200,000 more children in lower decile schools to have a free lunch by the end of 2021.
"No-one wants to see children go hungry, and a full stomach makes all the difference to a child’s learning," Mr Hipkins said.
"The Covid-19 pandemic has added urgency to support like this."
Pine Hill School principal Mel Ward said she was "absolutely thrilled" her school had been selected for the programme.
"It’s amazing for our school and our community.
"We’ve had lots of great feedback from our parents who are really appreciative of it, especially being in a low socio-economic area."
She said a bonus of the programme was that pupils were more curious about healthy eating and trying foods they might not normally eat at home.
"We have a high number of former refugee children here as well, so they’re also eating a lot of food they haven’t tried before.
"Every day, the big white boxes of food come into the classroom and they’re like, ‘Ooh, what’s in there today?’.
"There’s a real variety of food in the boxes, and the hope is they will go home and talk about the food they’ve been eating at school, and it becomes part of their diet at home too.
"We’ve had chicken drum-sticks, wraps, rice.
"We’ve had all sorts of things.’’
Mr Hipkins said he had received similar feedback from other participating school principals, who had reported improvements in pupils’ focus in the classroom, learning, behaviour and attendance.
The programme was also a way of creating local jobs, he said.
“Several schools already taking part in the programme have employed whanau to help make and distribute lunches on school sites.
"In some areas, locals have been employed by regionally based suppliers providing lunches.
“It’s a win-win for the students and the community."
Otago-Southland schools in the Government’s free lunches programme.
OTAGO: Bathgate Park School (under way). Brockville School (term 3). Carisbrook School (under way). Concord School (under way). Halfway Bush School (under way) Musselburgh School (term 3). Oamaru North School (under way). Pine Hill School (under way). TKKM o Otepoti (Term 3).
SOUITHLAND: Ascot Community School (term 3) Aurora College (under way). Te Wharekura o Arowhenua (under way). Fernworth Primary School (under way). New River Primary (term 3). Tuturau Primary School (term 3). Newfield Park School (under way). Waiau Area School (under way). Mataura School (term 3).