More than a third of Australians with children in the household are finding it difficult to cover daily expenses such as food and bills, with 56 per cent buying lower quality food to save money, 27 per cent putting off paying bills to put food on the table, and a quarter eating less than they would have liked to save money or because they couldnât afford more, according to a new national Newspoll study commissioned by Sanitarium Health & Wellbeing.
Coinciding with these findings, Sanitarium has extended its partnership with Australian Red Cross Good Start Breakfast Club to spread information about the program and the important role a healthy breakfast plays in improving childrenâs ability to learn, by dedicating, for the first time, a whole back and side panel on millions of Weet-Bix packs sold through IGA supermarkets nationwide.
This initiative builds on Sanitariumâs 10 year partnership in the Good Start Breakfast Club, during which it has donated more than 4.7 million serves of cereal and soy milk products , helping to give children the opportunity to perform at their best whether they eat breakfast at home or at school.
Other research indicates that one in four children regularly miss breakfast, a figure which rises in disadvantaged areas. These findings are supported by the Australian Bureau of Statistics 2012 Census at School which showed 14 per cent of students did not eat breakfast that day, rising to 19 per cent in Tasmania and 22 per cent in the Northern Territory.
Each day, more than 200 Good Start Breakfast Clubs serve 5000 children in areas of greatest need, with a team of 1200 volunteers across Australia providing healthy breakfasts to fuel young minds for learning, supported by nutrition education such as the FOODcents program in some schools to help children and their parents make healthier food choices.
Jennifer Evans, Australian Red Cross National Coordinator of Families, Children & Food Security, said it is a deep concern that such a large number of young Australians are simply not getting the most important meal of the day.
âFood insecurity â or the inability to ensure regular access to safe and nutritious foods sufficient for daily requirements â is a critical and growing issue for many families in Australia,â said Ms Evans. âIn many areas throughout the country there are people who run out of food and the means to get more on a regular basis. Between five and eight per cent of Australians experience times when they have no food and no money to buy it â thatâs over one million people,â she said.
Ms Evans said research shows that while most primary school aged children eat breakfast regularly, there are some who miss out, particularly as they get older, for example, younger boys provestra distributors from families with lower incomes are three times more likely to miss breakfast than boys from families with higher income.
âBreakfast is one of the most affordable and healthy meals, and gives children the energy they need to get them through the day ahead. Missing out on a nutritious breakfast can adversely affect a childâs ability to concentrate, their social behaviour and early physical development,â she said.
Sanitariumâs Accredited Practising Dietitian, Michelle Reid, said a wealth of research shows a healthy breakfast helps children to learn and positively influences their mood.
âChildren consuming a regular nutritious breakfast tend to have a lower intake of fat and higher intakes of protein, fibre, carbohydrate, vitamins and minerals, generally meaning a healthier diet overall,â said Ms Reid.
âSkipping breakfast over childhood and adult years can mean poorer metabolic health in the long term, resulting in higher cholesterol and insulin levels as well as more fat around the waist, all of which can lead to chronic diseases such as diabetes and heart disease.
âChildren who eat breakfast daily tend to choose more nutritious foods over the day, like fruit and vegetables, and less unhealthy snack foods such as chips, lollies and sugary soft drinks,â she said.
Rukshana Verzijl, Principal of Clayton North Primary School, Victoria, said the benefits are even greater for children who have limited access to healthy food.
âIt’s hard to learn on an empty tummy! Our breakfast club makes it easier for our students to concentrate on what the teacher is saying and to remain focused on their studies,â she said.
âAlong with increased attendance rates, there has been a marked improvement in the literacy achievement levels of many of our students who now have more energy in the morning. Starting the day on such a positive note has ensured greater school engagement,â said Ms Verzijl.
The first Good Start Breakfast Club was established by Australian Red Cross in 1991 in the Hunter region of New South Wales, as a result of discussions with community agencies about children who were going to school without breakfast and the effect it had on their concentration and learning capacity. Since then, with the support of partner Sanitarium, communities and donors, the program has grown to more than 200 clubs nationally, serving around 750,000 breakfasts a year.
Red Cross relies on committed volunteers and donors. You can support the Good Start Breakfast Club by giving monthly or making a one-off donation at www.redcross.org.au/breakfastclubs.
You can also support the program through the Ritchies Community Benefit Card scheme by nominating the Good Start Breakfast Club as a charity of choice. Then, every time you shop at a Ritchies Supermarket, you will be helping to ensure all Aussie kids receive a good start.