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School breakfasts mean thriving and achieving children

School breakfasts mean thriving and achieving children

Poverty Action Waikato

July 29th 2011

School breakfasts mean thriving, belonging and achieving children

"School breakfasts help set kids up for the day. The kids who come for breakfast have good contact with the local Elim Church volunteers and their behaviour is noticeably better through the day" said Noa Tereu a teacher from Strathmore Primary School in Tokoroa.

About twenty kids come for breakfast at this school and get to eat weetbix and milk sponsored by Fonterra and Sanitarium two or even three days a week if they can stretch the food that far. Ms Tereu emphasised that "the sponsorship is essential as we would not be able to run the breakfast programme otherwise. There is just not enough money in our school budget for that".

Poverty Action Waikato supports the recent call made by the Child Poverty Action Group, in their 'Hunger for Learning: Nutritional barriers to children's education' report (2011), for the consistency of government funded breakfast programmes in all decile 1 and 2 primary and intermediate schools. Community groups and commercial sponsors will continue to be vital to these programmes.

Government-funded school breakfast programmes in the region's poorest schools will help children to thrive, develop and achieve better at school. Children may then experience the added bonus of gaining a sense of belonging to their school and community.

Food insecurity is increasing in the Waikato, as wages fail to keep pace with increases in the consumer price index. The increasing use of food banks throughout the region demonstrates the financial difficulty experienced by many Waikato families in putting food on the table.

The government commissioned "Green Paper for Vulnerable Children" opens the debate on improving outcomes for vulnerable children. There is now a great deal of research evidence that a good quality breakfast improves children's educational outcomes. Food programmes for vulnerable children are a worthwhile social investment.

"We know that children who live in households that experience chronic food stress often miss school because they haven't got breakfast or lunch. Children with poor nutrition are also more vulnerable to getting sick, which also keeps them away from school. Free breakfasts in region's lowest decile schools is a good start to ensuring that these children get what they need to support their learning and development." says Dr Kellie McNeill, a food poverty researcher from University of Waikato.

Community meal programmes such as school breakfasts can help develop the capacity of communities to deal with rising food prices and build social capital. When food becomes unaffordable, relationships in communities through which food can be shared and better utilised become increasingly important.

"We need the government to help us achieve food security for our most vulnerable children in a sustainable way. School breakfast programmes are a good start." Dr McNeill says.


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