Schools ensuring students don’t go hungry

By Anna McGuinness

FOR some children, a school provided breakfast and lunch may be their only proper meals for the day.

The state government and Foodbank’s School Breakfast Club is run at four of Echuca’s primary schools.

On Tuesdays and Thursdays, Echuca Primary School provides free breakfast for its students.

The school's community engagement and wellbeing officer Scott Trewhella said around 60 kids enjoy a meal before school.

“It's possible some kids could go throughout the day without a proper meal if we didn't provide it,” he said.

The club is open to everyone regardless of whether they’ve already eaten at home.

“It’s important there’s no stigma involved and it’s inclusive of everyone, it’s also a social opportunity and a chance for staff to build those relationships before school,” Mr Trewhella said.

The club is only run twice a week due to the logistics of staffing it, however Mr Trewhella said teachers have a good understanding of which students haven’t had breakfast and ensure no one starts the day hungry.

“Some children go without lunch as well, so we’ll ensure they get that too,” he said.

Foodbank provide cereal, milk, honey, fruit cups and fresh fruit, but the club is also supported by the generosity of local businesses, Moama Bakery donates around 20 loaves of bread each week and Morrison and Sawers provide funding so the school can buy other food.

Moama Bakery donates bread to at least four other schools’ breakfast programs in the region including, Echuca College, Echuca East Primary School, Twin Rivers Primary School and Mathoura Primary School.

Store manager Kristy Scarfo said they’ve been involved for a few years.

“It started with one school and then word got around, whenever a school called to ask if we could donate it was always a yes,” she said.

The bakery freeze whatever bread is left over at the end of each day and the schools pick up their supply once a week, if they don’t have enough, they’ll bake more.

Echuca East Primary School holds breakfast club from Monday to Thursday, administrator Mel Price said its great place for the students to get together before their first class, “most of the children who get to school early join in”.

As well as the donated bread, they receive a delivery from Foodbank once a term and yoghurt from Fonterra.

In August last year an expansion to the program was announced, to include lunches and holiday packs.

Schools receive tuna and rice, fruit cups and milk for lunches and food packs for families who might need some extra help over the holidays, something Mr Trewhella said was an important addition.

“We can send them home and make sure the kids are looked after for the whole year, not just during school times,” he said.

It seems free food programs such as the School Breakfast Club are becoming increasingly important.

The Community Church foodbank had a record number of people come through in the last two weeks, and with an increasing demand from the adults in town, it’s likely children are affected too, meaning continued community support is vital.

Echuca Primary School's breakfast club is open to people who would like to support on a volunteer basis and have a current Working with Children’s Check. If you would like to get involved, contact Mr Trewhella at the school.