School breakfast plans 'sadly necessary'

CHARLEY MANN
Last updated 05:00 28/05/2013

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A national scheme to provide children's breakfast in schools is a sad but necessary policy, Christchurch principals say.

The Government is today expected to announce a food in schools programme, to initially help children most in need - those who arrive at school with an empty stomach.

Phillipstown School principal Tony Simpson said it was a "sad reality of our times" some children did not have breakfast or lunch.

The decile 1 school subscribes to the Government fruit in schools programme and Simpson said staff noticed a "significant difference" when it joined up about six years ago.

"Children were more settled, more able to learn and more able to get through the day."

The school would always buy a child lunch if they had nothing to eat, he said.

New entrant teacher Erin Moon said pupils were sometimes given money to buy lunch on the way to school.

"But being children they sometimes spend it on lollies and fizzy drinks."

It was easy to tell if a child had not had breakfast, she said.

"Their behaviour spikes.

"They are less compliant and often start to argue with other children.

"They can become quiet angry and tired."

Linwood Avenue School principal Gerard Direen said the Government scheme was a "no- brainer".

The decile 2 school works with KidsCan to provide breakfast and lunch to some pupils.

"There is an increasing gap of inequality between those who have plenty and those who do not have enough," Direen said.

"At times, children do not have enough food.

"We know that it does affect concentration, it affects capacity to engage in learning and engage in conversation, not to mention growth and brain development."

But Eric Crampton, economics lecturer at the University of Canterbury, said that while noble, there was "no great evidence" that providing breakfast in schools was beneficial.

A University of Auckland trial found that children in decile 1-4 schools with breakfast programmes did not experience any improvement in school attendance, academic achievement or behaviour.

"They also did not experience any increased likelihood of having eaten breakfast at all," Crampton said.

"Rather, many kids shifted from eating breakfast at home earlier in the morning to eating at school later in the morning."

FIRST MEAL OF DAY

The Press visited Phillipstown School yesterday and asked pupils what they had for breakfast.

Harmony Harteman, 11: Cornflakes

Juliano Savelio, 11: Weet-Bix

Brodie Norman, 7: Rice Bubbles and a banana

Falefitu One, 9: Weet-Bix

Honey Gosney, 7: Weet-Bix

Aomina Mautoatasi, 9: Toast and Milo

Diamond Silva, 9: Weet-Bix

Shakur McQueen, 8: Toast

Hemi Walker-Grace, 7: Weet-Bix

Karn Draper, 8: Honey Puffs

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- © Fairfax NZ News

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