A surprisingly high number of Australian children regularly skip breakfast – 25 per cent*. Going to school hungry can greatly affect kids’ behaviour and ability to learn. Studies have also shown that skipping breakfast can contribute to health problems, such as diabetes and obesity, later in life.
This month, Coles will donate $250,000 to Red Cross to help fund its Good Start Breakfast Club program for the year. This money comes from the sale of Coles Hot Cross Buns, and more will be raised for the program via Red Cross merchandise in Coles stores around Easter.
Good Start Breakfast Clubs are staffed by Red Cross volunteers. The clubs offer a nutritious breakfast to all children at the schools at least once a week, and many of the almost 200 clubs operate daily.
There are currently five clubs in Western Australia. Boulder Primary School Principal, Dan Bralic, said the club had been having a very positive effect on students at his school, helping improve behaviour, manners and general social interaction.
“The club provides students who attend with life skills and that first meal of the day which they might have otherwise not received. Teachers have noticed behavioural changes, commenting on students’ abilities to focus better on tasks after a good introduction to the day,” Mr Bralic said.
There are currently more than 20 clubs in South Australia. Hackham South Primary School Counsellor, Irene Roe, said the club had also been having a very positive effect on pupils at her school. “It has improved school attendance, and students are concentrating better and are far more focused during the first few hours of the school day.”
There are currently more than 30 clubs in Victoria. Heatherhill Primary School Principal, Jan Banks, said the club was helping out a lot of families under financial pressure.
“We became aware that many kids were turning up to school without any food and coming to school hungry,” Ms Banks said. “It became a pattern that kids were lethargic in class, and had difficulty paying attention. Now 30 to 35 students come to the breakfast club on a daily basis. Most of them come from low socio-economic areas, where families are under a lot of financial pressure.”
There are currently six clubs in Tasmania. Latrobe Primary School Teacher, Bernadette Howard, said “The significance of a good breakfast and providing a solid start to the day can really be seen in the children’s engagement in structured learning.”
Ms Howard added, “Around 25–30 children visit the club each day from across all year levels, as well as volunteers from the local high school, so the children get a fantastic opportunity to develop their social skills and socially interact with people of all ages.”
There are currently almost 20 clubs in Queensland. Grovely State School Teacher, Vikki Kilford, said “The teachers have found a really big difference in the kids’ concentration in the classroom. They are much more settled when they have full tummies.”
“Parents have found it so much easier to cope with their kids being provided breakfast on those two days a week. The children love to sit down and eat breakfast with their friends. They love it so much that we have some children who eat two breakfasts, one at home and one at school. Some even refuse to have breakfast at home just so they can have it at the Good Start Breakfast Club,” Ms Kilford said.
There are currently more than 80 clubs in New South Wales, and at least one principal says children often go hungry simply because of the busy lifestyles families lead today. “Our school day starts at 8:15am, and this means there isn’t always time for a good breakfast before school,” said Maroubra Bay Primary School Principal, Kathryn Sydenham.
Up to 25 per cent of Ms Sydenham’s students attend the club each day. “We’ve received good feedback from the parents, especially those who work full-time and don’t have the time to make sure their kids have a proper meal. The parents really love it and appreciate that their kids are being looked after so well.”
There are currently more than 10 clubs in the Northern Territory. Millner Primary School Principal, Terry Quong, said, “Without the Good Start Breakfast Club, we’d have kids who wouldn’t eat anything all day,” Dr Quong said. “There are so many children who don’t have food before they start the day, and there has always been a basic need for nutrition in our school.”
Coles Corporate Social Responsibility Manager, Jill Moodie, said the Good Start Breakfast Club program appealed to Coles because of its practical, hands-on approach.
“The clubs help families and children at a grass roots level. We are proud to partner with Red Cross and this very worthwhile program,” Ms Moodie said.
Red Cross CEO Robert Tickner agreed and said there were a variety of reasons children might miss breakfast, including poverty, simply not feeling hungry and the busy lifestyles families led today.
“The program is having an amazing impact around the country. Eating a healthy breakfast is just imperative if we want our kids to be able to concentrate in school. We are so grateful that Coles is helping us to fund this fantastic program because it not only provides children with a nutritious breakfast, but also helps them develop social skills by sharing meals with fellow students,” Mr Tickner said.
“According to our research, almost 80 per cent of teachers at participating schools say pupils who use the clubs have improved concentration.”
*Children’s Nutrition and Physical Activity Study, The University of Sydney.