03/03/2011 - 00:00

Breakfast for little champions

03/03/2011 - 00:00

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CONTENT to let other organisations answer the ‘why’ when it comes to kids going to school without breakfast, Foodbank WA instead is focused on alleviating the problem where it hits hardest.

CONTENT to let other organisations answer the ‘why’ when it comes to kids going to school without breakfast, Foodbank WA instead is focused on alleviating the problem where it hits hardest.

The School Breakfast Program started delivering breakfasts of baked beans, bread, Weet Bix and Vegemite to just 11 schools in 2001; that number has since grown and the organisation now feeds breakfast to 37,000 school children in 254 schools every week.

The reasons behind these figures, whether they are systemic or otherwise, are important, but plugging the breakfast gap by distributing food to schools is where Foodbank has focused its energies.

“It is a fantastic program; last year it grew 25 per cent, it is pretty sad that there are so many kids going to school without breakfast, but we don’t question that, it is just about getting them the product,” Foodbank WA chief executive Greg Hebble said.

Foodbank is now actively growing the number of schools involved.

“As part of our regional expansion and working with BHP, but also the Education Department and Royalties for Regions, we are expanding our school breakfast program into the more remote regional areas,” Mr Hebble told WA Business News.

It was announced this week that, collectively, Royalties for Regions, the Department of Education and the Department of Health will contribute more than $3 million to expanding the program through the South West, Wheatbelt, Mid West, Goldfields, Pilbara and Kimberley regions over the next four years.

At the organisation’s enormous Perth distribution centre, donated food sits in refrigerated warehouses stacked to the ceiling in parts; a map hangs in the entrance, proudly showing the extent of Foodbank’s reach, which stretches from Esperance to Broome and many towns in between.

There are obvious logistical issues in distributing food packages from the four distribution centres of Mandurah, Geraldton, Perth and Bunbury (with a fifth being built in Kalgoorlie presently) to communities like Warmun about 200 kilometres from Kununurra, and Kiwirrkurra in the Gibson Desert.

“It’s a fairly simplistic process, it’s not rocket science but it does take a fair bit of coordination,” Mr Hebble said.

The vast majority of the transport is by road, with logistics companies often lending their services at a discounted cost – a common story for Foodbank, which receives support from 500 companies.

Flight paths will soon be added to the routes, with the Royal Flying Doctor Service recently signing a memorandum of understanding with Foodbank to get involved in distributing its programs.

Mr Hebble took on the role of chief executive only 18 months ago but is helping the organisation grow its support bases and plan well for its future.

Outside the School Breakfast Program, Foodbank distributes food to 600 agencies within the Western Australian community, which then hand it on to people in need.

Mr Hebble said the organisation currently distributed 2.3 million kilos of donated food each year, which comes from food producers directly and companies such as Burswood, which over-produces soup each day and offers it to Foodbank.

Since it opened in 1994, the organisation has distributed 22 million kilos of food, which would have otherwise been wasted and become landfill; a sizable difference to the communities receiving it, with the environmental saving an additional benefit of the program.

Mr Hebble said the organisation’s 2030 plan included taking on ownership of the distribution centres and warehouses – assisted by $12 million the organisation secured last year through Lotterywest.

“In three or four years’ time we will be doing 5 million kilos a year, we envisage we will, but can we run that with the same amount of people we have got now? No we can’t,” he said, pointing to just one of the issues the organisation is facing along with its exciting growth.

“Now we have $12 million in funding for those buildings, but we need day-to-day operational funding, and that is the thing that we don’t have.

“I think historically we have thought a lot about just today, but it is more about where we are going to be for the future.”

 

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