Foodbank struggles to meet demand as cost-of-living increases see schoolchildren go hungry

Claire Halliday
Claire Halliday

Since the Victorian Government partnered with Foodbank Victoria to launch the School Breakfast Clubs Program in 2016, the initiative has expanded to support more than 1000 Victorian Government primary, secondary, P-12 and specialist schools  – enabling all students to access nutritious food during the school day.

But as price hikes hit Australian families hard, demand for the school breakfast program delivered to Victorian schools by Foodbank Victoria has risen by 40 per cent in the past 12 months, with the charity providing 2.4million extra meals.

Research shows that a child’s ability to self-regulate, learn effectively and concentrate in class is negatively impacted if they are hungry. And sadly, those who do not eat breakfast at home may also miss out on critical nutrition at lunchtime during the school days, as well as in their home environment on weekend and school holidays.

To help counter this lack of healthy food among families with school-aged children, Foodbank Victoria Lunches and Home Food Packs are also offered as part of the program. When school returns after the current school holiday break, students who may have spent recent weeks without enough to eat at home will again be able to access ready-to-eat lunch meals from staff at their school, with take-home food packs offering additional support.

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“I’ve been with Foodbank for 15 years – through [the] millennium drought, Black Saturday, Black Summer, floods, the pandemic – and this is the worst I’ve seen it in 15 years,” Foodbank Victoria’s chief executive, David McNamara, recently told Guardian Australia.

The crisis, said Mr McNamara, was affecting the middle class in particular, and with demand rising across the state, some other charities report the number of families desperately seeking assistance has risen by more than 300 per cent.

“There’s really not one part that’s not feeling this,” Mr McNamara said. “We used to say it’s people on the street, it’s people in your street. Now it doesn’t matter where you are.”

Cost-of-living increases will create food insecurity issues

Recent energy price rises and the grim forecast that more than 1.3million Australians will soon be plunging from the mortgage cliff as their fixed mortgage interest rates expire within the next 12 months will see household budgets stretched even further.

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Figures from property sector analysts CoreLogic reveals 35 per cent of all outstanding fixed mortgages will expire this year, meaning 23 per cent of all home loans will be repriced.

For borrowers with a $1 million loan, that will mean the pressure of finding an additional $2000 each month to meet mortgage repayments.

With rental prices in cities and regional centres also skyrocketing, a growing number of Australian students may find food insecurity becoming a bigger problem than ever before.

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Claire Halliday has an extensive career as a full-time writer - across book publishing, copywriting, podcasting and feature journalism - for more than 25 years. She lives in Melbourne with children, two border collies and a grumpy Burmese cat. Contact: claire.halliday[at]