A School Breakfast Club that goes above and beyond
Moe, situated in the Latrobe Valley, is 135kms east of Melbourne. The town’s focus was always industrial, but in the late 1980’s a combination of economic recession and restructuring of local industry resulted in sustained high unemployment and low incomes which continues today.
One primary school is harnessing the power of food to support the diverse communities impacted by Moe’s longstanding social disadvantage.
Moe South Street Primary School’s has around 318 students. The school’s aim is to develop creative, curious, and independent learners, who are also resilient and strong problem solvers when faced with challenges. Students are strongly encouraged to respect and care about themselves, each other, and the world in which they live.
The School Breakfast Clubs Program has become an integral part of achieving these objectives.
Eating, sharing and learning important life skills
For Moe South Street Primary School, the School Breakfast Clubs Program provides so much more than breakfast. One of the early adopters, the school now runs Breakfast Club five days a week, with approximately 25 to 30 students attending each morning.
Brooke Chatterton is the school’s Wellbeing Officer and coordinates the School Breakfast Clubs Program. “There are a lot of housing commission houses around us” she explains, “and many single parents. We had kids coming to school in their pajamas who hadn’t had breakfast yet, so we were feeding them in the classrooms.
The feedback from the community was that there was a real need for something like this.”
Breakfast Club provides an inclusive opportunity for kids to sit at a table, have a meal together and use table manners – things that don’t necessarily happen at home. They are also encouraged to help clean up after the morning’s meal, gaining life skills like wiping tables, washing dishes, and pouring juice and milk.
Making breakfast go so much further
In addition to the Breakfast Club program, the school has established a community pantry in the main entrance to the school. All children and parents have access to this. It also provides an outlet for children struggling in the classroom to feel useful by helping restock the shelves of the pantry.
“I’ve observed the older kids that want to help at home,” says Brooke. “They know mum and dad are struggling so they stop off at the pantry to get what they can for the family. They feel like they are contributing in some way and it’s just beautiful.”
The Wellbeing team also packs hampers with school breakfast products to drop off at people’s doorsteps when there’s a need, as Brooke explains:
Parents can call the school and let us know they are currently struggling, or a child may mention there is no food at home. The team can quickly action food to be available in these situations. At first there was a bit of a stigma and parents were a little embarrassed, but we made sure it felt like part of what the school offers to everyone, so people are now extremely grateful for the help.
Students also access Free Fruit Fridays which encourages healthy eating as many turn up with ‘packets’ of food in their lunchboxes. The fruit is a nutritious addition and there are some varieties that the students have never tried. Students are actively encouraged to be a part of this program as well, helping prepare the fruit and distributing it among their peers.
The school has also introduced a weekly ‘market day,’ allowing parents to ‘shop’ from a farmer’s market style set up in the school grounds when they come to collect their children.
School Breakfast builds relationships and trust
Brooke and the Wellbeing team at Moe South Street Primary School are a dedicated and empathetic cohort who have built trusted relationships with the students and their families.
While the School Breakfast Clubs Program offers an amazing service for students at the school, the by-product has been the opportunity to further assist families in the local area that are doing it really tough. The program has been a great resource for the school to continue to meet the growing demand for food relief in Moe right now.
Val Hemmings, School Chaplain
“There are at least five students every day that I need to check on to make sure they have had something to eat, as it’s a regular occurrence for there to be no food at home. The food provided by the School Breakfast Club Program is used across the day, for all meals and students.
It’s surprising, isn’t it, when you think of all the benefits? Sometimes you just do it, and you don’t think about it, but well my gosh, all the extra things the Breakfast Club is doing…the ripple effect.”
Brooke Chatterton, Wellbeing Officer
“They (students) rock up at Brekkie Club… For them to be able to sit down and have a piece of toast and some comfort…makes a big difference.”
Parent, with five children at the school
“Brekkie Club has been a lifesaver; I have to make five school lunches and we only have one wage. That one meal that the school provides every day, means that we can budget for other meals during the week.”