Marketeer Lisa King, 43, spent 15 years promoting bigname snack foods before teaming up with a celebrity chef to create a business that sees corporate customers fund healthy school lunches for vulnerable children.
“There was a media frenzy five or six years ago around research that showed 27 per cent of kids in New Zealand, a country of 4.5 million, live in poverty. One of the minority government parties put forward a bill to feed kids in lower decile [socio-economic] schools, but it wasn’t passed. It felt like everyone was talking but no-one was doing anything.
“I loved the Toms shoes model—for every pair bought, the company gives another to a child in a developing country—so I decided to apply it to kids’ lunches. I approached one of NZ’s best-known chefs, Michael Meredith, who grew up in poverty in Samoa. He knew what it was like to go hungry as a kid and came on board as a shareholder.
“We launched seven months later, in June 2015. By the second week of business we were already making 400 lunches a day in my kitchen at home, so I left my corporate job. By week 12, we hit our three-year business forecast. We’ve now given almost 1.5 million lunches to kids across 79 schools in Auckland and Wellington. In the early days, I’d get up at 4am to make the lunches myself, then Michael and I would deliver them to the schools. Today, we have 42 staff and up to 30 volunteers daily. Before COVID-19 shut down schools, we were feeding around 2,000 kids a day.
“Most of our customers for the adult lunches are busy corporates who want something healthy delivered to work. The school lunches are always nutritious: a wholemeal sandwich, lots of vegetables and protein, fruit and a treat, like a gingerbread man or popcorn. All of that goes into a brown paper bag with no branding, so it looks like it’s from home.
“I’d volunteered in charities before Eat My Lunch and seen the amount of time, effort and resources that went into [fundraising] to operate. I didn’t want to do that. Profit is not always a dirty word. We employ 42 staff and if the business isn’t self-sustaining, we’re ultimately going to have to tell the kids we can’t help them anymore.
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