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Red Cross survey confirms many children go to school hungry every day

Wednesday October 17, 2007

More than half the teachers involved with running Australian Red Cross Good Start Breakfast Clubs believe the majority of kids attend because food is unavailable at home.

A survey sent to Breakfast Club schools in every state and territory found sixty one per cent of teachers think children attended the clubs because they were hungry and fifty five per cent thought that was because there was no food in the home.

Other reasons nominated included 'convenience' and social interaction.

'One of the students before attending breakfast club would scavenge through the rubbish bins in the yard for scraps, which she would collect and then eat'- SA teacher.

'One child was often in sick bay complaining of stomach pains, which were due to hunger. The child used to miss class time. Now attends breakfast club and this has ceased'- QLD teacher

Virtually all the teachers surveyed felt that attendance at Breakfast Clubs had a 'high' or 'very high' positive impact on the social behaviours of children and that the level of stigma associated with attendance was 'Low or 'Very Low'.

'Years ago we provided breakfast for children who didn't have breakfast at home and this was very obvious and there was a stigma. But now that all children are welcome there is no stigma, kids feel it is an honour to help out at breakfast club'- SA Teacher

'It is really difficult and somewhat inappropriate for us to sit in judgement of families. We know that some families face real hardship, others don't seem to be able to organise themselves. We simply provide breakfast for all who want it.'- VIC Teacher

'Some students volunteer in the club as well and assist their younger counterparts to prepare breakfast and wash dishes. For one student in particular who had a low self esteem and lack of confidence this has improved greatly since volunteering in the GSBC'- SA Teacher.

'One particular boy came in with no manners and very little 'breakfast skills- He now comes in washes his hands, says 'Good Morning', is polite and eats his breakfast with no help, washes his dishes and says 'Goodbye'. That is almost what happens with most kids that come in for breakfast now'- SA Teacher

'Are there any negative impacts from breakfast club? Kids getting a breakfast, kids doing the dishes, learning manners, older kids helping younger kids- I don't think so'- SA Teacher.

Shaun Hazeldine, National Manager of the Good Start Breakfast Club program, believes the results show the benefits of providing a nutritious start to the day in a positive way.

'The Good Start Breakfast Club has a real focus on providing a healthy meal in an engaging, positive environment and some of the feedback from teachers has been incredibly gratifying'.

Good Start Breakfast Club is a community program run by Red Cross with support from Coles Supermarkets and Sanitarium.

Currently there are 180 clubs serving 15,000 meals every week to nearly 3,500 children per day, and Red Cross is planning to open another 40 clubs in the next 12 months.