Tarneit P-9 College, in Werribee, enrols over 1,700 students and, for more than three years, School Breakfast Club has been an important start to the day. Around 80 students are served breakfast, four days a week.
We chatted to Billie Voican, the school’s Food Tech assistant, who organises their Breakfast Club, to find out how the program is going. Billie told us that the school introduced lunches when they became available in Term 3 last year. They provide students with the tuna, rice and vegetable lunch bowls, apples, fruit cups and milk. This year they’re happy to explore the extra options on the menu.
Billie said, “Being a mum of three, it was initially quite confronting for me to realise how many students would go hungry if we didn’t have a Breakfast Club – including the lunches that are now provided. There is a big need for the supply of food. So, we are very glad to be able to rely on Foodbank Victoria to meet that need. However, beyond the food, the other major benefit of the Program is a social one.
“Teachers and students and our older and younger grades come together to enjoy breakfasts and also eat lunch together. Everyone is welcome to attend breakfasts and the lunches are distributed to those who need them.
“We encourage students to go to their teacher if they don’t have lunch. The teacher will then write a note which is handed to me, so I know who needs lunch.
“I have noticed that there is often a link between a student’s behavioural problems and being hungry. Offering lunch as well as breakfast has made all the difference to those students.
“We serve around 10 lunches a day. Our teachers understand that some students may never bring lunch from home, and we are happy to be able to ensure that no one goes hungry at breakfast or lunch time, because we can rely on the program.”
As many as one in five children in Australia start the school day without eating breakfast. About 15% arrive at school without lunch, or the money to buy it at the canteen. Hunger not only affects a child’s ability to learn, but can lead to lifelong impacts. Foodbank’s CEO says:
Adequate nutrition is crucial for childhood learning and development, and research shows children who have access to breakfast at school have improved concentration, engagement, focus and academic outcomes compared to those who don’t.