It’s often said that breakfast is the most important meal, the one that sets you up to fly into the day’s mental and physical activity with a well-supplied fuel tank. That’s part of the philosophy that’s driving Cleveland State School’s in-house free breakfast initiative – though there’s more to it than that.
School mum Bec Brown, the driver behind the plan, says that the school realised that providing breakfast for students and siblings would also provide an opportunity for greater social impact.
“Inviting all students, their parents and siblings and our teachers and staff to a communal gathering – outside the regulations and restrictions of the classroom – gives us all a chance at wider social interactions,” she says.
“It provides opportunities for easy conversations and good role modelling for a caring community. Having senior students, aged eleven and twelve, to help with serving and clearing away gives them first-hand experience in the social protocols needed for so many careers.”
The initiative was originally inspired by the breakfast plan run by the YMCA, which provides participating schools with a refrigerator, a freezer, basic utensils and a fortnightly delivery of assorted breakfast foods – all selected with reference to the Queensland Education Department’s Smart Choices – Healthy Food and Drink Strategy.
While that was a ground-breaking start Bec realised that more food supplies would be needed so she approached the Seasons IGA Cleveland principals. They had already indicated willingness to support the school and responded readily with a regular donations of fresh fruit, one thing that the YMCA scheme couldn’t provide.
Shopping list in one hand and courage in the other, Bec then contacted Cleveland Central Woolworths to see if they could help with more food and kitchen utensils. The response exceeded Bec’s expectations and the plan was almost ready to roll. To complete the sweep, Bec’s next call was to popular local bakery Banjo’s, who willingly came on board with baked products. The school breakfasts now run three mornings a week and are proving gratifyingly popular.
Bec says that there are a variety of reasons that families may skip breakfast; some students have pre-school sports commitments, time may be a problem for working parents, financial pressure or unawareness of nutritional needs may all play a part. What YMCA research has clearly demonstrated is that students work better and are less likely to be disruptive if they start the day with a good meal.
Cleveland State School Principal Rob McCullough says that the benefits of the breakfast initiative reach beyond attendance and academic achievements.
“It’s important for our students to have access to an intimate, safe place that encourages a good relationship with the school and their peer group – and cross-generational interaction encourages the development of leadership qualities.
“The breakfast structure has the flexibility needed to accommodate a changing number of children,” he says; “At present we have about two hundred students attending, with help from teachers, staff and parents.”
Rob, who was previously the Principal of Stradbroke Island and Dunwich State Schools, says that the generosity of sponsor companies doesn’t surprise him.
“Cleveland people are very generous, it’s something I’ve noticed in every posting I’ve had in this region.”
For Bec, the generosity sees her doing a food collection run several times a week. Perhaps the next sponsor donation will need to be a delivery van!