Birchwood School’s Breakfast Club coordinator, Janice Johnson, back left, with parent helpers and pupils at breakfast before school last Friday. Photo: Simon Bloomberg.

Birchwood puts on breakfast for pupils

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A group of kids at Birchwood School have been getting a kick start to the day thanks to generous support from Countdown Stoke, Fonterra, Sanitarium, and a dedicated band of parent helpers.

Last year, the school identified a number of children who were missing out on breakfasts in the mornings and decided to do something about it. So one of the school’s support workers, Janice Johnson, got a team of parents together to start a Kickstart Breakfast programme at the beginning of the second term last year.

However, Janice says that feeding children in the morning is just one of the reasons why the breakfast club is good news for the school. “We knew we had a need but it was for lots of different reasons. We have children with parents who start work before eight and need somewhere to go, and some who are having trouble making the transition from home to school.

“Of course, there are children who need a breakfast, but the benefits are much broader. It’s social as well as nutritional.”

Janice says she has noticed a big improvement in the behaviour and academic performance of many of the children attending the breakfasts. The children have more energy and are “a lot more settled and ready to learn”.

The breakfasts are held at school five days a week starting at 8am and are regularly attended by “at least 20 children.” The programme is supported by Sanitarium which supplies free Weet-Bix, Fonterra which provides the milk and the “fabulous” people at Stoke Countdown who help out with fruit, spreads and margarine.

The school also received a grant from the Lord Snowdon Trust to buy a freezer to store the bread. Parent helpers are also a key part of the programme with about three parents rostered on every morning to help prepare and serve the breakfasts.

“I really like helping out,” parent Anna Fitzgerald says. “It’s all about being part of the community. The kids like the breakfasts but they also like the social side of it as well – it’s a great scheme.”

Another parent volunteer, Kim Richards, says the kids are also encouraged to help out in the kitchen, which develops their sense of responsibility. She says good behaviour and manners at the breakfast table were rewarded every morning when they presented a Kickstart Superstar Award to one of the children.