Five million students fed

By Liz Mellino

Food distribution groups are celebrating a milestone record of five million meals that have been served to disadvantaged students through the Victorian Government’s School Breakfast Club.

Since 2016, hundreds of students have started their school day on a full stomach through the program, which distributes to 500 of Victoria’s most disadvantaged schools.

Close to a dozen schools in the Goulburn Valley are registered with Foodbank to receive a nutritious meal through the Breakfast Club, which parents and volunteers run at each of the schools.

Shepparton Food Share, a partner agency of Foodbank, provides fresh produce and packaged goods to students at 21 primary and secondary schools across the Goulburn Valley.

Shepparton Food Share operations co-ordinator Bec Nicoll said the schools in the program were identified as having a high population of families with low socio-economic circumstances.

‘‘The Foodbank school breakfast program deals directly with schools in the area and we at Shepparton Food Share assist these schools with additional supplies to make sure they have a full range of healthy, nutritious food,’’ she said.

‘‘There are additional schools in the GV that aren’t registered with the program, so we’re able to assist these schools with breakfast, lunch and after-school snacks.’’

Since it began, the program has delivered more than one million breakfasts to students across northern Victoria.

Last year, 569 tonnes of food was distributed through the program, with an average of 33 students attending a breakfast club in every school.

This year’s School Breakfast Club program interim report shows nine out of 10 teachers said they had seen improved student concentration in the classroom, while seven out of 10 teachers noted student attendance had improved.

Ms Nicoll said primary and secondary schools made up a third of Shepparton Food Share’s regular customers, with about 60 to 80 tonnes of food being distributed to them each year.

‘‘No-one wants to see or know that any child is turning up to school without having had some breakfast,’’ she said.

‘‘It is really important for our young people to have good nutrition so that they can better learn and concentrate while they’re at school.’’

State Member for Northern Victoria Mark Gepp said the delivery of the $13.7million School Breakfast Club helped tackle hunger in the classroom in a bid to improve attendance and academic performance.

‘‘Across northern Victoria alone we have seen students share in more than a million breakfasts,’’ he said.

‘‘These are local kids who would have sat through class on an empty stomach without this program.’’