A good start helps kids thrive

In the early hours of the morning, before most Australians have woken up, there are dedicated organisations and volunteers tackling an epidemic hiding in plain sight; one in five Aussie kids will be experiencing food insecurity and many will be going to school hungry.

Through provision of a nutritious breakfast in a warm, welcoming and inclusive environment before classes start, the Good Start Breakfast Club aims to address the physical, emotional and behavioural impacts that hunger and poor nutrition has on children.

Since 2001, the program has delivered more than 20 million serves of Weet-Bix to breakfast clubs in every state and territory of Australia. 

As explained by Foodbank CEO, Brianna Casey, food insecurity is not well understood in Australia, “Food insecurity is different to hunger, we’ve all felt hungry at some point. For those facing food insecurity, the unfortunate reality is that they do not have regular access to the ingredients required to put a nutritious meal on the table for themselves and their family.”

Sanitarium supports not-for-profit partners Foodbank and Kickstart for Kids to deliver Weet-Bix and other Sanitarium breakfast supplies to over 2,800 school-run breakfast clubs every year, with approximately 76,000 students accessing the program every day.

“Of children experiencing food insecurity, breakfast is the meal they are most likely to not get, but we know developmentally it’s the meal they need most. Children who continually don’t get breakfast, particularly a nutritious one of wholegrains, milk and some fruit, miss out on many key nutrients they need every day to be healthy.  This includes carbohydrates, protein, fibre, vitamins such as B vitamins and minerals including iron and zinc. These nutrients are essential for physical growth, intellectual development and mental performance,” said Trish Guy, Dietitian, Sanitarium Health Food Company.

Foodbank's research shows that parents see the following types of behaviour in their children’s wellbeing when they do not have enough to eat:

  • 22% become agitated and irritable
  • 24% more outbursts and tantrums and 24% become unhappy
  • 17% sleeping patterns change
  • 17% act up at school and 16% cannot concentrate at school

“When you see these negative effects of not having enough nutritious food to eat, and then imagine trying to put a child in a classroom to learn, you can immediately understand how these kids can fall behind at school - dramatically limiting their potential,” continued Guy.

For Ian Steel, CEO of Kickstart for Kids which delivers breakfast club programs in South Australia, the knock-on effects this issue has is a story he is all too familiar with, “I've been mentoring socially disadvantaged kids for a long time and what I've seen has changed my world; kids living in the backs of cars without anything, and kids who are absolutely starving.

“Today, we serve 50,000 breakfast to kids in 360 schools through the state and the difference between before and after is transformational in their lives – something as simple as getting a good breakfast to set up the day,” said Steel.

Sanitarium works closely with a range of charities to tackle hunger in our communities including partnering with key organisations, like Foodbank Australia, who are on the ground, day in day out, delivering food and other assistance to some of the most disadvantaged and vulnerable communities across Australia.

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